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The Daily

On Failing Productively

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Sep 3, 2015

Worried CPAEveryone fails. Some people fail a little. Some people fail a lot. But we all fail. While some might advocate moving on from failure as fast as possible, one author, interviewed by New York Magazine, thinks differently: while one should not dwell and brood excessively, if you don't take the time to understand the nature of a particular failure before moving on, you're probably just setting yourself up for the next failure down the road. While reflecting on a failure is never a comfortable process, like a broken bone healing stronger than before, sitting back and thinking "what just happened here?" can make people more resilient when facing future challenges. So, in general, what's recommended here?
One should dig really deep about the why something failed, and be genuinely curious as to what exactly went wrong. Added on to this is to be honest with yourself. It's easy to see where other people fell down, but it can be harder to acknowledge the places where you were the problem. This is not comfortable to do, but it's not meant to be. Sometimes medicine is bitter, but we take it anyway because we know it will help. Accepting this discomfort, meanwhile, is another key point. The author recommends against immediately going for the easy answers. Identify the uncertainties and chew on them for a bit, maybe accompanied with honest thought and difficult conversations. 

However, it's also important to be able to evaluate accurately what is and is not a failure. The author also points out that too often we can be deflated by criticism of inflated importance. While feedback is vital, and criticism should be considered carefully, the author said one should consider the source, especially whether they even have the understanding to properly contextualize their own critique.