It seems odd to be writing about failure just two weeks into a new venture.  Surely that kind of negativity has no place on the Yellow Dot Women page?

But, actually, failure is a really important topic to consider when you start something new.

If the new thing is worth having then there will be some element of risk inherent in it.  Whether or not we succeed will depend on how well we manage that risk.

Most of us make small risky decisions every day.

When you buy a new book there is a risk that it will be boring.  When you cook a new meal for the first time there is a risk that you won’t enjoy it.  When you watch a new television programme there is a risk that it won’t be as entertaining as you hoped.  But you manage the risk by choosing a book in a genre you have previously enjoyed, by cooking a meal using ingredients that you know you like or by reading reviews before choosing to watch a new television programme.

But sometimes you get it wrong.  You fail.  Now is the time to learn.

Perhaps you have discovered that, although you like aubergine when it is diced and spiced and cooked in a curry, you don’t like it raw in a salad.  That’s good learning.  You can still experiment with your cooking but you have become more discerning about what works.  Perhaps you really enjoyed reading the Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbo but failed to enjoy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson.  You have learned that you don’t necessarily like all Scandinavian Crime novels.  You have honed your reading taste.

The point is that you need some element of failure in order to learn, in order to become more discerning, more nuanced.

Of course, the risk involved in choosing the wrong book is low, the cost of failure is negligible but the principle still holds when taking bigger risks.

In starting a new business I have calculated the risks.  I understand the cost of failure on a grand scale but I have managed the risks which are within my control (I am using my skills, I am communicating my ideas, I have a business plan and a marketing plan and I am involving other professionals when my skills don’t cover my needs (a graphic designer and a web developer for example).

Am I guaranteed success?  No.  Because there are so many factors outside my control.  All I can do is face those factors each day, be flexible and learn from my failures.  And No again because anyone can have a bad day and bad days lead to mistakes.

Culturally we are not very good at failure in the U.K.  We like to point the finger of blame.  When something goes wrong we want someone to be accountable.  When M.P.s get something wrong we expect them to resign, we are pleased to knock celebrities down from their pedestals and, at work, it is always someone else’s fault when things don’t work out as planned.

There are a number of problems that stem from living in a blame culture:

  1. People stop taking risks. They stay in their comfort zones and only do what they have always done.  Progress becomes a thing of the past.
  2. People hide their mistakes and their failures. They do not learn from them and they do not give others the chance to learn from them so mistakes are repeated ad infinitum.
  3. Dishonesty, secrecy and fear become the norm and teamwork becomes a thing of the past.
  4. Stress, depression and anxiety are allowed to flourish.

Do you recognise any of these elements in your workplace?  Or worse, in your home?

Are you allowing your employees, your colleagues or, indeed, your children to make mistakes?  Do you support them to learn from their failures or do you simply criticise?

So far, in two weeks, I have avoided any major failures but I know they will come.  And when they do, I will tell you all about them.  That way, we can learn together.

And, of course, if you would like help to combat a blame culture or to learn from your personal failures please get in touch.

But, just for now, please tell me what failures you have experienced over the years and what you have learned from them.  Maybe other Yellow Dot Women can learn from them too.

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