As a child I remember asking for permission to speak. I’ve asked for permission to pee, permission to be excused, permission to paint an apartment in college and permission to borrow the family car. As a performer in the USO I remember asking a ships’ captain for permission to come aboard his vessel. I’ve asked permission of employers to take exotic vacations for longer than average periods of time, but I can honestly say that I have never once asked for permission to fail; I wish I had.
I read J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard University commencement speech today which confirmed my thoughts. The “Harry Potter” author offers some powerful, heartening advice to dreamers and overachievers, including one hard-won lesson that she deems “worth more than any qualification I ever earned;” the benefits of failure. I like her more already.
I’ve compiled a list to give each of us a word we can identify with: lapse, flunk, loss, downfall, flame-out, ruin, misfire, bust, defeat, flop, washout, divorced, fired…I could go on, but I think you get the picture. These are all words, mere words that we’ve allowed to dictate not only our futures but our “nows.” It’s not the failing that causes unrest and unhappiness; it’s actually the FEAR of failure that prevents potentially brave souls from achieving heights never before reached. Fear is the word we ought to consider removing from our vocabulary, not failure. Fear: the ultimate four-letter “f” word. Failure: the ultimate motivator.
I know I’ve written about this topic before, but what struck me as peculiar was the fact that I, like J.K. Rowling am indebted for some of my biggest failures; whether they acted as the catalyst for change or the motivator to drive on. It wasn’t until I was fired that I realized I hated the job I was in. It wasn’t until I was dumped that I realized I had lost most of who I was in the relationship. It wasn’t until I flunked out of accounting did I realize that my job at an accounting firm was not a good fit.
It’s not in the failing; it’s in the fear of failing that we get paralyzed in life. I obviously had no problem with failing: jobs, relationships, classes…it was the fear of what people would think that made the experiences more painful than the eventually pleasant outcome. So what would happen if we all had permission to fail?
Every story about great accomplishments contains the micro story of great defeats. None of them succeeded without failing first. It’s in how they used their failures that is the key. Here’s a cliff-note version of how to turn that fail around in three easy steps:
- It happened already. You can’t change it and you can’t worry about “what if.”
- What’s left? Use it, even if only the lessons of what NOT to do.
- Immediately begin taking action to accomplish whatever goals you set out to accomplish in the first place.
You can’t fail if you follow these steps; it is impossible! You can only fail if you stop trying. You can only fail if you live in fear of what might or might not happen. Here’s a quick look at something I found on 3 Simple Steps to Turn Failure into Success. Worth a click to the link for a deeper dive into the process:
- Affirm your worth
- Review the situation
- Go at it again with all your worth
Sound simple? It is! I, Chrysty Beverley Fortner, hereby give you (insert name here) permission to fail. But more importantly, I give you permission to try again. And in the end, I give you permission to overcome and succeed! Signed this 15th day of February, 2010.