Why You Fail

By Rebel Brown

We all fail. The first time we tried to stand up, take a step or hit our mouth with that spoonful of applesauce, we failed. We tried again. And again. Sooner or later, we succeeded. We moved on to try the next new thing. And failed again. Until we figured it out.  If we didn’t try, we’d still be in our cribs screaming for someone to come and take care of us.

As you grow, society teaches you that failing is a bad thing. It makes you less than others, means you aren’t good enough. Winners are to be lauded. Failers, not so much.

You learn that the goal is to be a winner. That’s when the trouble began.

Why You Fail

You are wired to be a learning machine. That’s why you fail. You’re meant to. It’s part of how you learn and advance. How you grow and become more.

If you don’t fail, you don’t grow. You just get stuck in the way you know oh-so-well. Your brain gets programmed to always follow the way that’s safe and comfie. Because your brain’s number one priority is to keep you safe. So you hang on to what’s known and avoid anything that might threaten that safety.

That’s the real failure.

Why You Need to Fail

If you don’t fail, it means you aren’t stretching yourself to try new things. When you cease to expand beyond the known, you stop learning. Your whole system gets stifled. Your career, personal life, health,  mental well being and more slowly start to stiffen, then stiffen some more. Before you know it, you’re so stiff you can’t adapt, grow or change.

Yet failure is how we learn.  I know we’ve all been told that. Do we really embrace it?  Not so much.

Ask any business executive what his or her goal is and succeeding will be included. Succeeding in the form of winning, usually by beating a competitor. Don’t expect to hear anything like, “learning from my failures,” to be in the list of priority goals. Not happenin’.

Thriving on Failure

One of the things I recommend to clients is to make failure a daily goal. Which means that every day you try something new, stretch yourself beyond your limits, experiment.

Let’s say you try something new at the gym (even a heavier weight that you can’t lift.) When you journey into that new endeavor, you push yourself past you comfort zone. You expand. That’s the success… not the act itself. When your brain recognizes that expansion is safe, it begins to accept the idea of trying new things, and failing.

Same if you challenge your team in business to come up with one new idea each day. It doesn’t matter whether the ideas are good or bad (another limiting definition from society.)  What matters is that you’re thinking differently, stepping beyond what you already know and accept. When you reach for something new and different, you expand. Your definition of success changes.

Think how our world would be if everyone avoided failure? The New World wouldn’t have been discovered, we would never have stepped on the moon, most businesses wouldn’t be in business and our world would be a dark and dank stagnant place.  Filled with the mediocrity that is born of standing still.

The Bottom Line

We’ve all heard the mantra, “embrace your failure.” The problem is, that doesn’t focus on shifting our beliefs about failure. We still see failure as a negative, hear those voices saying we failed, feel the angst that’s wired into our soul.

We need to shift our definition of failure. From believing that failing is bad, to knowing that failing is the best thing we can do.

When we seek out and celebrate our failures, we shift our brain’s programming.

We take that first brave step into the unknown, fail, and then step again, and again. Learning and growing along the way.

That’s what I call success.


About the Author

I create strategies for go to market, leadership, sales and marketing that help you reach peak performance. For over 25 years, I've worked with investors, board members and executives to fuel bottom line profitability. I also coach individuals and teams to achieve peak performance through the powerful applications of modern psychology. With over 300 clients in my portfolio, I bring a depth and breadth of expertise that my clients say is rare... and powerful. How can I help you achieve peak performance?