The Creative Build: Failure is Freedom

Aug 08, 2014

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At some point in life you may have heard someone say, “You must conquer your fears.” Which is good advice. A life free from fear is the freedom to live your life. Pretty sure I saw that on a bumper sticker once. The point is though, on the fear scale, right below being eaten by a shark and contracting Ebola is failure. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, and especially in the business of “creativity,” it’s that failure is inevitable.

At one point or another, you’ll make the wrong choice, say the wrong thing, pitch the wrong idea. And it will happen again, and again, and again. That can be tough when essentially every idea represents a little piece of you. Not some process handed down or checklist of procedures to abide. It’s you. The architect, the sole contributor. And oftentimes your brilliant baby idea grows up to become your undertaker (you can’t trust anyone these days).

Now let’s be clear about something. While failure may be an acceptable learning technique, it’s not an excuse to make the same mistake twice. That’s just laziness. But it’s important to wrap your head around what you learn from failing. “Learn” being the key word here. You see, when coming up with ideas, letting failure fuel your fire will generally lead to being engulfed by it. Mostly because failure naturally fuels insecurity, and success isn’t a business sustained by redemption. Success is cultivated through learning, and having the discipline to see failure as simply what you learned that day.

So here’s where some people may say, “Whoa, hey there Seth Godin. Take a simple idea and make it sound overly profound for the sake of selling a few more books why don’t ya.” Well, if it weren’t for the fact that understanding this simple truth is so crucial to one’s success, I’d probably agree with you. But be honest with yourself. When’s the last time you failed at something you were passionate about and the first thing you thought was, “Wow, that didn’t go as planned, I better sit down and see what I did differently than the last time?” If you’ve mastered that kind of Zen-like relationship with failure, then congratulations, you’re probably retired with a lifetime of great ideas behind you. For the rest of us, the closer you can come to having a disciplined approach to failure, the better.

Besides, there’s no where to go but up, right?