Failure: learn or forget?

Working for a company where self-critique is an art form, and being someone who always (always!) tries to anticipate what can go wrong so I can address it before it does, I have always thought of failure as an opportunity to learn. But I do like what Alex Bogusky has to say about learning from success and forgetting failure.

I would like to live somewhere in the middle where both successes and failures are examined, where thoughtful risk-taking is rewarded and where wanton disregard for consequences and poor performance is managed. That's super middle path.

I mean, I have to imagine that an account director that keeps losing accounts doesn't get to keep "forgetting" that he ever had those accounts. There's motivation on one side, but there has to be performance management on the other. OK, so creative environments are different; motivating creatives is different. But a company needs to know who to retain and reward.

I do think that self-critique, as part of a corporate culture, sometimes goes too far. I heard this mentioned by someone the other day and I am glad it is something that we can talk about. I have told friends to be kinder to themselves, I have told myself the same thing ("Self, be kinder to your you"). It shouldn't get turned off at work.

Why can't everything be an opportunity to learn? We aren't so simple that we can't manage that. The key for the individual is to examine; keep the information that is helpful and then let the judgment go.


Comments (4)

  1. Suzy says:

    Nice Post. Inspiring! Your post reminded me of another inspiring video post I had seen "Think Positive" by Vineet Nayar. You might want to see this.

  2. andi wijaya says:

    I like your blog and is very good.

  3. Well put.

    Self-analysis, regardless of success or failure, can be examined and learned from so that in the future, more desirable results can be cultivated. The cup is neither half empty, nor half full, but is currently containing 50% of its maximum capacity.

    Perhaps the mistake with the "forget failure" mantra is the focus. The problem I believe it intends to solve is fear of failure – many who "learn" from failure are afraid to fail in a similar way. We should learn from our failure, use that knowledge to judge our path in the future, but never be afraid to fail again.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Travis…now that was well said!

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