Guest Blog by Mira Rao from Audacious Enterprise talks about how Failure can be the best thing you do...
I hate failing. I HATE IT. So I practice it diligently every day. Great failure takes practice. I plan to get really good at grand and graceful failure one day.
It all started when a very cheeky mentor of mine set me an assignment - to fail at something every day. Of course, I overachieved on my very first day which happened to also be my first day on a new job. I was (an admittedly slightly arrogant) newbie young manager in a conservative work environment full of battle-axe women who’d been running the show the same way, every day, for the past 20 years. I counted out the day’s takings and then went home, leaving the safe unlocked with $20,000 cash in it; to be gleefully discovered the next morning by the Queen-Kahuna of battle-axes. Of course she had also gone up in competition against me for the role so was utterly delighted to get an opportunity (oh so deliciously soon!!!) to prove how wrong they were in their choice. Ah…the humiliation of her faux-compassionate and oh-so condescending pointing out of my rather splendid failure (of which I am now quite proud).
What did this assignment teach me? It showed me how confused I was about my own blurry outline. I didn’t know what ‘me’ was. I thought everything I did was me. Everything I created was me. Everything I said or thought was me. The point of this exercise was to shock my system - daily - into realising that the amazing magnificence of my being was not determined by my doing. There is only “failure” when we have a pre-determined sense of what an outcome is supposed to be. The outcomes of my endeavours in this world, successful or not - don’t really matter. Like a baby exploring its body and how it works - I look at my hand, I send a signal to move it and look wow I knocked over an object… when we sense without judgement, when we simply show up to observe the results of our efforts, we place ourselves in the moment and thus in the simple joy of this exploration, this journey of doing or being or creating. This is true practice – while we repeat and repeat and attempt to gain or maintain proficiency we stay curious and able to delight in unintended or incidental outcomes. Indeed this is often where the magic in creativity happens, the fudged note in a jam session, the slip of a brush stroke, the improvised new line to weave in someone’s botched recall of the script.
And so it is for this reason I still need to practice failure every day – to detach from the outcome and stay in curiosity (I have to even be okay with failing at failing!). Otherwise I might be tempted, when I encounter a disappointing outcome, to use it to define myself and determine my value in the world and thus deaden myself and my creativity. From what I hear, many of my friends do the same. What a complex and exhausting web of misunderstanding and pain we then weave for ourselves. In this brave new world of entrepreneurship that many of us are exploring, this is easy to do. Our hearts are on our sleeves, our passion is out there. We are pushing against the boundaries. A new paradigm is emerging in technology, consciousness and business and it is allowing us to build businesses that are reflections of who we are and what we love. We sculpt and carve out our little niche, our precious products and brands and lovingly sing out to the world to pay attention and play with us.
And in this we are vulnerable to pain if we do not practice failing…falling gracefully into disaster and disappointment.
So FAIL – please! Over and Over. And then some more! We must get really really good at failing. Practice as much as you can.
And for my final failure for the day, I hereby proudly misquote everyone’s favourite Star Wars mystic and completely contradict myself: "Do. Or do not. There is no fail."