Be Careful of the “Failure Fad”

There’s something happening out there that I’m starting to call a “failure fad.” Social media is being flooded with quotes about how great failing is, and how much it can teach us. Quotes like: “Failure is success if we learn from it” by Malcolm Forbes or “Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. It’s ok to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing” by H. Stanley Judd. I don’t disagree with their sentiments. Learning from failure is important, and how you react to failure is critical.

However, the flood of so many “failure narratives” on the web makes me wonder if we’re getting the wrong message.  I hear young leaders urging their teams to fail, and talking about the benefits of failure without inspiring their people toward success.

It’s true that failure can teach us, but it shouldn’t be our goal.  Failure is only beneficial when we’re stretching, growing, over-reaching. I prefer Ken Robinson’s perspective: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” In other words, prepare for things to go wrong. Be ready for failure so it doesn’t derail your goals. But don’t expect it. Don’t wallow in it’s benefits. Don’t focus so much on failure that you forget what success looks like.

Sure failure is a risk, and I believe living life to it’s fullest means being willing to take risks. But when it comes to the possibility of failure, I prefer what John Green has to say: “What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?”

That simply means to focus more on the remarkable, and less on the potential of failure.  Learn from failure when it happens, but believe me, failure is no fun.

Has anyone else sensed that maybe we’ve gone overboard on the “failure is good” theme?

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  1. It is just another Christian fad that we fall into… WWJD trinkets, Prayer of Jabez, then a few years ago there was the fasting fad (kinda like lent – you gave up some foods but not all of them – yet it qualified as a fast somehow)… yeah, now this. I’ve seen it too… or should I say I’ve failed to see it too…..

    1. The longest I ever fasted was 21 days, taking only lemon water and green tea without sugar. I don’t think it was a fad.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. If we’re too accepting of failure, eventually we’ll run out of time, and all of our “second chances” will be used up.

  3. Failure happened. It wasn’t fun. I didn’t learn from it. At first. Now picking up the pieces. Can someone write about recovering from failure? I don’ t think I’m doing it well.

  4. There are many types of failure, and different levels of failure. So I think it depends on what you are talking about.
    Some failures are avoidable (Moral failure etc.) these link wink your previous post on controlling what you can, others are part of the natural growth process. When you take a risk there is always a chance of failure but failure is not inevitable.
    Part of the problem is who you let influence you. If you’re having a pity party, you may want Leone to join with you, but what you need is people who encourage you to get up and move on.
    When a toddler learns to walk and they fall, we don’t focus on the fall we celebrate the steps and encourage them to try again.
    Real failure is quitting when you mess up and not trying to make things right.
    Winners never quit! Quitters never win!
    My philosophy is learn from other people’s mistakes/failures, then I can avoid the pain of making my own.

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