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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dealing With Failure

Seth Godin posted something on his blog recently about dealing with failure, called "After you've done your best". In it, he states:
"...we're encouraged to avoid failure, and one way we do that is by building up a set of emotions around failure, emotions we try to avoid, and emotions that we associate with the effort of people who fail. It turns out that this is precisely the opposite of the approach of people who end up succeeding."
And later:
"Successful people analytically figure out what didn't work and redefine what their best work will be in the future. And then they get back to work."
Seth is primarily talking about careers and the workplace environment, but the advice is very sound, and something we all need to be aware of in all aspects of life. Very recently, someone close to me felt like they were failing at something and had an extremely emotional reaction to it. One that ended up hurting a lot of people. It would definitely have been more productive for this person to analyze their situation and, as Seth pointed out, "redefine" what they needed to do. But emotions took control of them and that didn't happen. I was quite angry at first, and still am to a lesser extent, but we have to understand that once emotions take full control of a person, we are almost powerless to stop the onslaught they cause.

But the story doesn't quite end there, because I also felt like I failed this person by not putting together the clues in time to warn them or, even better, help them. I also had an emotional response to my own failure, one of extreme guilt. I honestly can't say that it's gone away or I've gotten over it, but I can see that it would have been better for me to learn from this instead, to learn what I could have done better, to learn what I will do better in the future.

We all live and learn, but some things are just too traumatic and difficult to learn by experience alone. That's why we have to think things out, plan ahead and take other situations and people into consideration, and above all...help each other.

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