The Courage To Fail

Fall seven times, stand up eight. - Japanese Proverb

We’ve been taught to feel ashamed of failure. This makes us fear it. According to UC Berkeley research, we protect our self worth by avoiding failure. This way we can avoid shame, believe we are competent, and project that competence out to others. 

That’s a damn insecure way to live.

Enter courage. The courage to face fear, take risks and fail for our own good. The reality is that failure is not about self worth. Failure is just trying something that didn’t work as expected. This is life. We’re all walking around trying things and tweaking them based on consequence.

Building the courage to fail is about normalizing failure and seeing it as learning. As Samuel Beckett said, “No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

What does it mean to fail better? We must correct the way we respond to failure because this is what matters. We need to respond courageously and continue to stand up. Here are four tactics for confronting failure with courage.

Become a Pro at Failing:

Do it so often you wow people with your indomitable spirit. Not only will this dull the emotions surrounding risk aversion and fear, but as you continue to both fail and succeed, it will condition you to accept failing as just another small step in success.

Find Failure’s Learnings:

Everyone fails. Some people let it shut them down. Others learn from it.  It comes down to mindset. Carol Dwerk has become a failure mindset expert. She says, “In the fixed mindset, when you fail; you're a failure. In the growth mindset, when you fail; you're learning.” This is not some mind-bending makeover. It just takes practice. Do try shifting your thinking on your next small failure. Fail and ask, “How can this experience make me better? What’d I learn here?”

See Failure in the Long Term:

When you see each failure as learning and look past it, far down the road of your life, you can start to see its inherent value. The lifelong learning angle becomes both relevant and obvious if you expand the parameters of success. Did the failure get you closer to success next week? Perhaps not. Is it a lifelong learning moment that will boost your brain’s capacity, sharpen your thinking or fine tune your desires? Likely, yes.  

Practice Self Compassion While Failing:

Yes, you have limitations. Yes, you’ve failed. Join the giant, ever-expanding club called humanity. We all have times when we feel unworthy, broken and not good enough. Some people falsely believe that beating themselves up keeps them motivated. Self-loathing is a poor motivator.

According to this article, “Research has found that people who practice self-compassion recover more quickly from failure and are more likely to try new things—mainly because they know they won’t face a negative barrage of self-talk if they fail.” The key here is separating your self worth from the results of your actions.  

As Myth Busters star, Adam Savage, says, “Failure is always an option.” And he means it as a good thing. All actions cause failure, failure leads to learning, and learning gives rise to success. Be brave. Fall down. And have the courage to keep standing up.


Human Unlimited
Human Unlimited