Gretchen Rubin

Secret of Adulthood: Succeed by Failing

Secret of Adulthood: Succeed by Failing

From Further Secrets of Adulthood.

I try to see failure as a necessary aspect of success. Which is easier said than done.

For instance, I often remind myself to Enjoy the fun of failure. This catchphrase has made a huge difference to me. I’m very ambitious and want to succeed at everything I try, and that makes me very anxious—which isn’t a creative frame of mind.

Telling myself that I can enjoy the “fun of failure” has made me (somewhat) more light-hearted about taking risks. As G. K. Chesterton wrote, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

I also tell myself, "If I'm not failing, I'm not trying hard enough."

I want to see failure as a necessary and acceptable part of a fun, ambitious, creative career. As an Upholder, that can be tough, because when I set out to do something, I really want to met that expectation for myself. So I try to expand my expectations for myself to include failure, as odd as that sounds.

Someone once said to me, "Don't call it failure! Re-frame it!" At first, I thought that sounded like a good idea, then I realized -- no. I don't want to pretend a failure away; I don't want to gild it up; I want to acknowledge and even welcome failure.

How about you? How do you think about failure? Can you stretch your definition of success to include failure, so that you can succeed by failing?

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