Understanding failure as a positive event

fail.jpgYou’re going to fail. It’s important to know that this is a fact and it’s important to be ready for it, because it’s not fun to fall on your face; it hurts. Especially if you failed doing your “life’s work”, the thing that you’re *meant* to do in this world (it’s a Velveeta-laden concept, but one I believe in).

Sometimes it’s tough to get up again after a spectacular fuck-up. It’s too easy to start believing that you have no business doing what you’re doing, and that you just suck, plain and simple, *irrevocably*, and the best course of action would be to just get off the ride and out of the way.

Last week, I wrote a post about failure and how to deal with the emotional fallout, and this is important. But now I want to focus on how turn failure into a positive experience.

### Character and Intellect

In the interview below (at about 00:27), Twyla Tharp takes something like 15 seconds to define failure and describe how a professional should deal with it. At first, I dismissed it as overly simplistic. But then, I went back and wrote down what she said, and what I discovered was that her answer wasn’t simple, just succinct.

Paraphrasing, she says that failure is the result of trying something new that didn’t work. And in the aftermath of failure, there are only two moving parts: Character and Intellect.

* *character* is what makes you get up and do it again

* *intellect* is what figures out what went wrong and how to correct it.

Using this idea, failure ceases to be a catastrophic and final result. Failure is no longer an *end point*, but is merely a feature of the landscape.

### Keep putting stuff down

Having a new understanding of failure is all well and good, I want to see how it translates into real world use:

##### The Q-Burger Blog

The Q-Burger blog is a terrific example of how I deal with a public failure on a weekly basis. I started the blog a few years ago, messing about with it as a means for publishing a comic. Since about April of this year, I’ve ramped up posting frequency to 5 times a week in an effort to increase my audience and keep people coming back every day. Conversely, the amount of time that I have to work on writing posts has decreased significantly over the last 7 or 8 months.

I face the weekly challenge of taking my allowance of 5 hours and creating new content that is a.) interesting enough for me to make the effort to compose it and b.) good enough that my audience will want to read it. This is not an easy thing to do, and according to my web metrics, I often fail to meet that challenge.

But over time, I’ve worked to improve my writing. I’ve created a pretty good way of collecting ideas and inspiration. And I’ve reaped the rewards of increased traffic and audience response.

However, the fact remains that I fail every damn week. Publicly. I still write stinky stuff, I still miss my deadlines, and I’m nowhere near the most generous definition of a successful blog. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. Sometimes I wonder why I keep doing this. But I’m a writer. So I still sit down every Saturday and write up my five posts with the idea that this time I’ll do it better.

### It’s just part of the landscape

Failing is a huge part of life, whether you’re a creative person or not. Failure is, in truth, a stepping stone, not a final resting place. Once this is recognized, it’s easier to deal with. And while knowing this might not prevent the burn of a world-class faceplant, it’ll likely help prevent the next one.