Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fear of Failure

5 meter long red soy protein warp being beamed back to front using a reed as a raddle

A friend once confided to me that because a project she had devoted a couple of years and a great deal of money to had failed she was battling the feeling of being a failure herself.  I told her that just because a project she had worked on had not produced the results she desired did not make her a failure.

Our society judges success and failure by how much money a project generates.  When the project does not make as much money as we need it to generate, sometimes we have to pull the plug on it, no matter how successful it may have been on many other levels.

Wayne Dyer says that when we do something, what we get is a result.  The result may not be the one we wanted and therefore we call it "failure" when in reality all we have is a result.  It is how we respond to that result that matters, not the result itself.

If we react to the result by calling it 'failure' and give up, then that truly is a 'failure' because we have failed in a much more important way.  We have failed to learn from our result.  We have tarred ourselves with a negative image, diminished ourselves, possibly setting ourselves up for not even trying in the future at another project, another time, fearing more 'failure'.

A sage once said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

There is a poster on Facebook that compares what we think the path to success looks like and how it really looks.  Every time I see it I remember that yes, that path is not a straight line.  There are many twists and turns, many detours.  And ultimately success - and, indeed, failure - is not a destination but us walking that path.  It is a process.  A process fraught with results that do not necessarily please us, that may not come close to where we want that result to be, many lessons learned along the journey.

During my years as a weaver I have tried many different things.  Ultimately almost all of them ended in 'failure'.  That is, the effort being poured into them was not generating enough positive outcome to continue with them.  And so I had to face that fact and end the project.  That does not mean that there were not levels of success along the way.  Each 'failed' project brought interesting people into my life who encouraged and supported me in many ways.  Each project taught me lessons that I needed to learn.  And each project ran it's course.  Just because the project stopped being 'successful' doesn't mean that I failed.  It just means that perhaps I learned the lessons I needed to learn, met the people I needed to meet, and it was time to move on.


Sandra Rude said...

Wise words, as usual, Laura. Sometimes we find a "dog" on the loom, but if we learn something from the dog, we should say "Good Fido" not "Bad dog."

Peg Cherre said...

I agree with Sandra.

Is that warp you're beaming on YOUR loom? I didn't know you worked on a counterbalance. I LOVE my counterbalance - it will always be my favorite loom.

Anonymous said...

I see great danger with this. Relanguaging "failure" to avoid its depressing implications requires you to do the same thing with "success," or court full-tilt cognitive dissonance. If you have never failed, you can never succeed.

Failure is a completely legitimate sensation and outcome. When we set ourselves an objective and we do not achieve it, what have we done? We've failed to get there. Wayne Dyer and the feel-gooders notwithstanding, there's no reason to avoid embracing that reality, and learning fully from it--something I think we cannot do if we diminish its significance. Was the objective realistic? Were the efforts made toward it informed, sensible, properly made? What would have ensured a better outcome, or was that not possible?

If we don't accept our failures, we don't get to enjoy our successes, and that's not a bargain I find acceptable. Unless we register that the idea, or its execution, did not work as envisioned, we can't confront it fully, address the issues, and re-envision the whole thing. If screwing up isn't that big a deal, then getting it right can't be all that important either. Meh.

Laura Fry said...

Hi Peg, yes my 'small' loom is a Leclerc Fanny. Luv her for her simplicity.

Anon brings up an important point. We ought to celebrate our successes. But neither should we rest on our laurels.

One of my mentors said that if we weren't making mistakes we weren't learning anything. I believe that to be true. :)

'Failing' just means that we didn't get the result we wanted and we need to think the process through in order to come closer to our goal. 'Failing' should be a springboard to success, not the end of the journey...and if a project cannot be salvaged we should not beat ourselves up over that 'failure' but look to the lessons we have learned so that future projects can, hopefully, run more smoothly.