Almost anyone who has ever been successful at anything had to go through numerous failures to get there. Failure comes in all shapes and forms — unusable drafts, rejected prototypes, errors of judgment, speling mistagkes — but it’s always an opportunity to learn. Problem is, though failure is what success is built on, many of us have a complete phobia of making mistakes.
At Wonder, we believe redefining failure is crucial to growth. Whenever we need to be reminded that it’s okay to be wrong, we turn to the five videos below:
Khan Academy: You Can Learn Anything
It’s not our lack of abilities that hold us back. It’s our mindset. This inspiring video from Khan Academy shows us that achieving our goals starts with thinking we can.
Carol Dweck: The Power of Believing That You Can Improve
Rephrasing failure as “not yet” can radically affect our performance and attitude towards achievement, says Stanford psychology researcher Carol Dweck.
David Foster Wallace: Ambition
In this short interview, David Foster Wallace discusses perfection, and how his desire to always achieve this perfection negatively impacted his work.
Kathryn Schulz: On Being Wrong
On this TED Talk, which explores everything from the Chinese character for picnic bench to the mistakes of Wile E. Coyote, journalist Kathryn Schulz questions what it means to be wrong, and suggests that allowing ourselves to be wrong more often could change our lives (for the better).
J.K. Rowling: Harvard Commencement Speech
In her now famous address to the new students at Harvard, J.K Rowling gives a personal account of the many failures she encountered when she was an aspiring writer, and how these failures helped her strip away the inessential in order to focus on her work and who she wanted to be.
Are you hard on yourself when you make mistakes? Do you tend to stick to your comfort zone rather than take risks? If so, you might be seeing life as a test that you either pass or fail. To start seeing it for what it could be — an experiment you can learn from and have fun with — we recommend trying one (or all) of the three things below:
(Writers’ Note: We think you’ll enjoy them even if you’re pretty good at failing).
1. Read a biography
There’s an old cure to beating yourself up for not being really good at something: it’s reading your hero’s —or anybody’s— biography. Biographies tend to be perfect illustrations of Thomas Edison’s mantra (“genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration”) and Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule. By narrating the countless times successful people have struggled, failed, and (most importantly) persevered, they help us all put things in perspective.
2. Get good at positive self-talk
People who are scared to fail listen to the voice inside their heads that tells them they’re not gifted, clever, creative, young, or (insert desirable trait here) enough to do whatever it is that they would secretly love to do. That is the voice of their inner critic. Creativity expert Julia Cameron recommended that her students work with their inner critics instead of shushing them completely. She gave them the following exercise: whenever you hear your inner critic, take note of what it’s saying. Then, convert each nasty statement into something positive (“I, Jessica, am stupid and lazy”, for example, into “I, Jessica, am capable and determined.”)
3. Do something challenging
When it comes to taking on challenges, you were likely a lot braver as a baby than you are now. Think about it — you took on the inconceivably humongous challenge of learning how to walk, and you failed (in public) hundreds of times before you finally succeeded. To become as curious and eager to learn as you were when you were an infant, embrace a new activity, like learning a new language or an instrument. Allow yourself to make plenty of mistakes. Watching your slow, steady progress will motivate you to take on even greater challenges.