It’s #FailureFriday! We’re dedicating the end of the week to changing our perspective on failure. Today we bring you another great piece from Warren Berger, about the power of asking the right questions (this piece has been excerpted from this Fast Company Design post):
Here’s a question: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
“If you really ask yourself this question,” Google’s Regina Dugan says to her TED audience, “you can’t help but feel uncomfortable.”
She explained that the question tends to make us aware that fear of failure “keeps us from attempting great things . . . and life gets dull. Amazing things stop happening.” But if you can get past that fear, Dugan said, “impossible things suddenly become possible.”
By asking What if I could not fail?, we look at the world through a different lens. We effectively remove the mental constraints we create and allow ourselves to think freely and clear of the fears and baggage that weigh us down and keep us thinking small.
However, we agree with Jonathan Fields is more interested in people asking themselves questions that empower taking action in the face of the reality that you might fail, because as you know, we think failure is good and the key to success. A question Fields prefers to ask is: What if I fail–how will I recover?
Often when we think about failure, Fields says, “we do so in a vague, exaggerated way–we’re afraid to even think about it clearly.” But if before embarking on a high-risk challenge, you visualize what would actually happen if it failed–and what you’d likely have to do to pick up the pieces from that failure–this can help you realize that, as Fields says, “failure in any endeavor is rarely absolute. There is a way back from almost anything, and once you acknowledge that, you can proceed with more confidence.”
Another question Fields suggests asking: What if I do nothing?
The point being, when we take on a major challenge it’s often because we really need to change–and if we don’t go ahead with it, we’re likely to be unhappy staying put. Whatever problem or restlessness already exists may, in fact, get worse. “There is no sideways,” Fields says; if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving back.
Finally, Fields recommends asking yourself: What if I succeed?
“That’s important because the way our brains are wired, we tend to automatically go toward the negative scenario. So in order to give your mind a chance to latch on to something positive, something that will actually fuel action rather than paralysis, it’s helpful to create some level of clarity around what success in this endeavor would look like.” In other words, give yourself a strong incentive to want to risk failure.
And while we’re on the subject of great questions to ask yourself, here’s one from Chris Guillebeau: What’s truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed?”
And, of course, if you do fail. Ask yourself what went right and how you can learn from it. Need help with that? Check out these posts: