Seeing Failure as future opportunity

Life is about failures, frustrations, and yet, through self-reflection we can come to understand where we have been in our struggle to grasp our own personal goals, that goal just out of reach, where we are now and were we are going.

I would like to start by letting you know something very important about myself. I Fail. I have such a long record of failures that each one could be a drop in the sea and fill all seven seas… Now that is something to relate to isn’t it? Not necessarily the failure part, but the sea.  I live by the sea. I love the sea. I love sea stories. I love the romance of the sea.

I respect the sea. It is a fearsome and dangerous place after all. We as a culture, see equivalence of the sea to our emotions, a sea of emotions, like the emotions failure often brings, frustration, anxiety, anger… and we are a ship on that ocean, tossed by our emotions and yet we set a course for the winds of fortune… hmm sounds like a song I once heard… (Kansas)

However, though I love the ocean, I am not a sailor. I once tried to be a sailor. I failed. I almost killed my husband in the process too. When I and my husband first met we bought a sailboat. A twenty seven foot Catalina named Blue Moon. I barely knew how to swim, but sailing “builds character” and the best way to learn is just get on board and sail right? Isn’t that what we always tell ourselves when we are faced by a new challenge? We set ourselves a goal and think; the way to get this accomplished is to just do it. Eventually we will succeed.

Wrong.

Even the simple act of holding the rudder straight,  headlong into the wind while my  husband put on the jib sail was a task too much for me to handle. Actually it was a task to  much for my husband to handle the resulting head injuries. As the boom continually swayed back and forth it caused him to repeatedly duck its turns in the wind, not always  successfully. We went out on that boat almost every day for weeks that first summer. I never learned how to keep that boat headlong into the wind. To this day I cannot sail, but I did come up  with a few boat jokes.  What is a sailor’s favorite game?… Duck, Duck, Boom, and… what was  written on the sailor’s tomb?… He went out with a boom.  Alright , I am not a successful comedian either.

Luckily I didn’t kill my husband that  summer. He still loves me even though I failed at sailing. It is important that we understand that instead of seeing  failure as not acceptable we can reframe failure as “…a natural byproduct of a healthy process of experimentation  and learning” (Cannon et el p. 18) I guess having a ship on the ocean just wasn’t in the winds for us. After all failure “leads individuals to question their taken-for-granted beliefs and assumptions and reframe their appreciation of the situation (Argyris & Schön, 1978; Ellis & Davidi, 2005)” (Fang He et el 16).  From that experience I have an even greater treasure than that of being a sailor, I have a story, and

I still Love  the ocean.

Cannon, Mark D., and Amy C. Edmondson. “Failing To Learn And Learning To Fail (Intelligently). How Great Organizations Put Failure To Work To Innovate And Improve.” Long Range Planning 38.Organizational Failure (2005): 299-319. ScienceDirect.

Fang, He, et al. “Why Do Some Entrepreneurs Fail Forward (While Others Do Not?).” International Council For Small Business. World Conference Proceedings (2012): 1-49. Entrepreneurial Studies Source.

Kansas. “Carry on my wayward son.” Sony Music Entertainment. 1976.

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