Failure

Here’s a nice article on failure on the Harvard Business Review website, called The Missing Market for Failure by Joshua Gans (thanks to Tim Harford‘s tweet).

I’m not sure a market for failure is nearly as important as simply gaining a better understanding that failure is necessary and normal and is not bad.

We live in a trial-and-error world.  We really don’t know if something will work until we try. It’s disappointing that we stigmatize failure so.

I think this goes back to Salman Khan’s insights on education in this post.   In school, we punish experimentation and failure.  I agree. That’s where the negative stigma on failure starts.  If you don’t ace a test at a specific snapshot in time, you’re deemed “slow kid” as Khan points out.

I’ve seen enough things that I thought would fail prove me wrong.  Enough so, that I try to keep an open mind and realize that what I think doesn’t matter much.  What matters is if it really works or not.

Even with the things that don’t work, I often find that the reasons for failure were reasons that nobody guessed upfront and we all learned valuable lessons in the process of trying.

We often look at successful people and assume they have a perfect record.  But that’s a rare (if non-existent) case.  What differentiates them the most from you and I is an ability to accept failure, learn from it, brush it off, laugh at it and move onto the next thing.

They don’t let it define them.  They treat failure as a feedback, plain and simple.