When I was younger I used to be obsessed with a book called The Heroic Book of Failures, which as I recall was mainly about highlighting the epic levels of stupidity and inadequacy that human beings are capable of and I suppose celebrating them as momentous in their own way.
When I was younger, I never ever wanted to be a failure.
Nowadays, I realise the increasingly real risk that I might do something that mean I end up in a future edition of that unforgiving tome given that I know very little about anything and have come closer to ending my own life through my stupidity than saving someone else’s through my wit and courage. I often wonder if I am in danger of accepting failure too readily; or as Bill Haden would put it “have [I] lived with it for too long?”
Which is odd really because being a follower of the social innovator scene, one of the lines continually repeated is that failure is good, failure is necessary and failure should be welcomed and not feared. The rationale for this is sound – all of our great achievements and insights as a species have been forged in the fire of our mistakes. Learning is by its nature often experiencing a situation so that we can avoid going through that same situation again.
But I have come to realise that it is cool to fail from a “movement’s” point of view, it is awfully testing on one’s resilience. As I said before, while I accept failure is inevitable, I do not wish to become a failure. However by failing quick and failing often, I have noticed that while I am learning a lot and developing my understanding, my heart and confidence is increasingly heavy. Yes we collectively come up with a better product/outcome but we have done so because of my mistake. I cannot share in the achievement because initially I got it wrong. And it is getting to the stage where I’d quite like someone else to be wrong and for me to sweep in with the “right” answer.
Trouble is, we’ve got loads of people in that latter category. Loads of people who know it all and would change the world if only the world can see it their way. Unfortunately these people tend not to be creators, but critical designers – they need something to feed off as one cannot critique in a vacuum. Is stupidity the oxygen for smart people I wonder?
Do we therefore need an army of failures – of heroic failures – to help us move forward collectively? I don’t know… I sort of hope not, because that isn’t who I want to be. But I guess if it is the case then so be it. All I ask is that you spare a thought for us now and again, because while you may see the value in what we bring, we’ll always only see the value that we wish we could.