Be Willing to Fail


“If at first you don’t succeed, 
you’re running about average.”

M.H. Alderson 

We often hesitate to try something new for fear of failing. Yet we often forget that ‘failure’ is a completely natural part of our growing process. If all babies learning to walk quit after the first tumble, we’d all lead pretty sedentary lives! 

We were born willing to try, to stretch, to grow…and to stumble along the way. It’s all part of the journey. 

Somewhere along the way, we got conditioned to ‘get small’. We learned to be careful, to look good, to worry about making mistakes. How much simpler life would be if our mistakes and growing pains were celebrated along with our successes! 

I sometimes catch myself thinking I “should” know how to do something I’ve never done before. At those times, I’ve learned to step back, put things in perspective, and give myself a huge break. 

Once I do, I am much more excited and willing to step right in. 

In fact, I bet you could easily think of memorable times in your life when you did something new, or difficult, or challenging, or scary. Nothing about the experience might have gone perfectly, yet you became a different person because of it. Just think of giving birth to your first child, your first kiss, or learning to write the alphabet. 

For me, one example comes to mind immediately. It was the summer of 1988 and I was an exchange student living with a host family in the tiny town of Sille-le-Guillaume, France. One day, some friends invited me to participate in a 4-person team rowboat race taking place in one week’s time. 

I was by no means an expert rower (adequate at best), had no team, no time to do anything resembling training (not that I would have known how to train for a boat race, anyway), and would be competing against teams of men. 

I could hear all the reasons to politely decline yelling in my head. Yet it sounded like a lot of fun, so I heard myself say ‘yes’. 

And of course, right away, the fear set it. Was I going to make a complete fool of myself? 

I immediately contacted several other American friends from nearby towns to be my teammates; all the other people in town were already on teams. We became ‘The American Express’ (very aptly named by my host mother, Jacqueline). My teammates showed up the evening of the race, apprehensive yet enthusiastic. 

The race was complete chaos…a couple of the women on my team had never rowed, it was windy and rainy and cold, and the lake was choppy. We decided to just give it our all and have a good time. I mean, we were in France, in a boat race, in the rain! 

Several hundred, or maybe it was only a dozen, laps later we arrived at the finish line, soaking wet, exhausted, and blistered, in second to last place. 

And we were ecstatic! We did it! 

We finished the race! 

We were cheered and supported and teased and encouraged all along the way by the fans who came out to watch the race. We even won a trophy for being the first female team to cross the finish line. 

So did we “fail”? In the traditional sense, absolutely. 

In every other sense that mattered, we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. We were four completely happy, exhausted women. To this day, I have a picture of the four of us, just after the race, sitting on my desk. Here’s to you, Sara, Loni, and Nicky! 

Here’s to all of you, too. Be willing to fail! 

This week, I challenge you to try something new, maybe something you’ve always wanted to do, and give yourself permission to do it ‘not perfectly’. 

Ask yourself if you enjoyed what you were doing, even if it was nowhere near perfect. If so, go ahead and do it again. 

You’ll either improve, or you’ll enjoy yourself so much it won’t really matter.