Celebrating your failures is not a new concept. In 2016 a Princeton professor, Johannes Haushofers, published a ‘CV of failures’ alongside his usual resume in which amongst others, he detailed “Degree programs I did not get into”; “Research and funding I did not get”; and “Paper rejections from academic journals”. His purpose in publishing his failures was to highlight the comparative invisibility of failure and visibility of success.
In his introduction Haushofers wrote: “Successes are visible…this gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days”.
His point is clear, he has as least as many failures as wins on the board (probably more) and the “CV of failures” is a visual representation of that balance. He is using his failures as a way to help others, a tangible demonstration that you will fall many times as you climb the mountain of success.
The likelihood is that he used these failures as inspiration to work harder, to try again and this is evidenced in his successes. It must, after all, be a brave and successful man who is confident enough to allow his failures to be public in order to serve others.
THE RIGHT WAY TO CELEBRATE FAILURE
Celebrate failure, it means successes are around the corner
You may not have to go so far as to publish your failures, but sharing your missteps is one way to celebrate your failures in a way that is constructive, positive and helpful to yourself and others.
You might think that failing at something is pretty bloody depressing, but I believe in my bones that every single one of my setbacks has gotten me somewhere and have accumulatively contributed to where I am now. Celebrating my failures in the right way is a big part of that though.
We do not want to celebrate failure for the sake of it. Instead we want to understand that success is a process that failure is usually a part of. Rarely do we succeed wildly when we try something big the first time. I’m not talking about board games or making a ragout here (though these can be tricky!). I’m talking about big life challenges; starting a new business; buying a house; getting a good exercise routine etc.
Failure is a part of success and so we can’t shame it or hide it, because without it we can’t succeed. Instead we need to learn from it and celebrate it in a constructive way.
HOW DO I CELEBRATE FAILURE?
Check your attitude
First of all, check your attitude. Remember that you are the one who is entirely in control of how you feel. If you fail and find yourself going down the path of self-doubt, beating yourself up or throwing in the towel, stop and take a breath.
Remind yourself that you’re still breathing and you get to get up again and try something else tomorrow. Or maybe tomorrow you’ll try the same thing again with a different methodology, a different attitude or a different team. Tomorrow will be a bloody good day because you get to try again.
You are in control of making it a good day. You can shift your emotions and decide to be positive about your next attempt.
Celebrate that you took the chance and did something
How many people go to their graves wishing they had taken a chance and done the thing they dreamed of, whether it be writing a book, finding their first love, starting a business, changing careers etc.
Before you do anything else, give yourself a pat on the back for taking a chance and trying something. You did the thing that so many are afraid to do and that is worthy of celebration. You were brave and put yourself out into the world and can say you tried.
See failure as a stepping-stone and choose to let it inspire you
Thomas Edison famously said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps”. This is the attitude you must take to your failure.
It doesn’t mean blindly continuing along the same path you were already on though. Instead be honest with yourself. When you’re facing failure, even if you think you did every possible thing to make you goals come to fruition, sit down and really look at what happened.
If you are being truly honest with yourself, you will see areas where you can do better next time. Maybe you weren’t 100% committed. Maybe you could have hustled harder, improved your communication, inspired your team better etc.
Once you’ve done this, let that failure feed a fire in your belly. Let that fire invigorate you and help you to make the changes you’ve identified, to try something else or work that little bit harder.
This last part is a choice. Similar to checking your attitude, you can choose to let failure inspire you to do better or to get you down.
Write your failures down
Once you’ve been through your process of assessing what you could do better, write it down. Write down what you were trying, what went wrong, what you plan to do better next time and what you did well in this attempt.
This type of documentation will not only solidify the celebration of your attempt and what you plan to do better next time, but also can ensure your memory of your failure is positive, constructive and helpful.
This means that when you succeed, you can remind yourself of all the chances you took along the way. If you keep a daily journal, this is the perfect place to write down a little celebration of the chance you took, even though it didn’t work out and all the different ways you tried to make it work.
Share your failures
There is shame around failure and so we keep our failures bottled up, like they need to be protected. The truth is that telling someone about them often releases the shame and takes away the power that failure could be holding over you. This can allow you the freedom to have another go or try something different.
Demonstrating vulnerability is well documented as a great strategy of effective leaders. It takes great courage to be vulnerable and to share your failures and this shows strength. It will also help you to connect better with those that you share with.
Sharing your failures can also help the people that you tell about them. If you tell someone the story of something going disastrously wrong and they see you, standing, breathing, unharmed and willing to try again, it will inspire them and could help them to see their own failures differently. They also may offer an idea that could help you or be the missing link in achieving your goals.
Failure is a very normal part of life. We all see how babies stumble and fall on their path to walking and yet in adulthood, we see it as unacceptable. There trick is that babies always get up and try again and as long as you do the same, there is no need to feel shame around your failures. Celebrate them in the right way and you’ll be on your path to success in no time.