Failure: the art and science of perfection

17 Mar

As creators we are all afraid of failure. What if people don’t like what we do? What if we try to do something amazing and fail, what will people think? If I fail does that mean I’m not any good at what I do?

Ok, let’s start as we mean to go on: FAILURE IS GOOD!

Failure is what happens when we try and do something which is almost impossible. Think about that for a second. Someone who tries to do something impossible, something that’s never been done before and fails is a HERO not a fool.

FAILURE is what happens when you push the envelope, when you try harder.

Only artists who are at the top of their game try and do more. If you are good at what you do, and let’s face it faith in your ability is not optional if you want to be truly good at something, then you will want to grow. You don’t want to sit back and turn out the same old stuff year on year, you want to expand your horizons.

If you are a writer then you don’t want to write short stories forever, you’ll want to write a novel or a screenplay. Or a series of books. Or a I don’t know picking something at random, I dunno say a BLOG about writing and creativity. Hehe.

It doesn’t matter, what DOES matter is that you try and fail a LOT. Seriously. Fail as much as you can.

Most people I know who are writers are always patty-caking around trying not to start something which might fail, which might not work. It’s the source of a lot of writers block, and as I’ve said before a lot of that is lack of planning, but another big part of it is fear of failure.

Lose the fear, it has no place in your heart.

Fear of failure is fear that something you care about will die. It’s primal, like the fear a parent feels every day sending their kids out into what they naturally assume is a big bad world. But it’s not a big bad world, it’s just a world, and good things happen and bad things happen. It’s about 95% paranoia. Nine point nine times out of ten your kids go to school, their friends houses, and eventually work, and come home safely. You need to have faith.

It’s the exact same thing with your creative work as it is with children. Put them out there, if there’s a problem, a skinned knee, a lost teddy bear, a girlfriend dumps them, they flunk their exams, you fix it and move on. Experience is gained, lessons are learned and NEXT time the result will be different. It may be failure again! But you try again. Eventually the result will be success.

This is the thing, you have to keep going so you don’t quit on your dreams before you succeed. The finish lines of races, the Oscar stage and Nobel prize winners roll of honour is filled with people who failed repeatedly but NEVER gave up.

A story everyone tells about Edison is that he failed to make a lightbulb hundreds of times but finally he made one that worked. Those weren’t failures, by hard work, diligence and dogged persistence he merely discovered hundreds of ways NOT to make a lightbulb.

So if you are wondering grumpily how all these people who succeed do it, how they manage to avoid failure and “unjustly” get their reward so “easily”, think again. They fail as much as everyone else, but the difference is that they consider failure a sign that they’re doing something impossible worth perfecting.

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Oh and something which inspired me recently, and yeah it is a bit of advertising, but I’m not getting paid for showing you this, more’s the pity. I just thought it was really cool and follows some of the themes I’ve talked about in this post.

Check out this amazing film from Honda about the joy of failing.


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Posted by on March 17, 2010 in Creative Genius


8 responses to “Failure: the art and science of perfection

  1. Daniel

    March 18, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I liked your blog so much that I subscribed to it. It spoke to me as if you were nearby. Provokes me to take action. Thank you very much. 🙂

    • Phil South

      March 18, 2010 at 11:16 am

      Hey thanks, Daniel. It’s people like you I write it for. 🙂

  2. Jan faalangstig

    March 24, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Interesting article and great tips. In my coaching practice in the Netherlands I do use Energy Therapies, like EFT to help my clients to get rid of their fear of failure, in Dutch it’s called faalangst.

    • Phil South

      March 24, 2010 at 10:04 am

      Funnily enough I use hypnosis to cure writers of their dread of starting or finishing. EFT is fascinating too, it’s like acupuncture but with tapping, right?

  3. Gene Alvin aka "Aelf

    March 28, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Great post! I started writing short stories because I didn’t have to invest a year or two in something that I wasn’t even sure I could do. After having a half dozen short stories published I just had to take a shot at a novel. That was about a year and a half ago. Failure has loomed imininent many times and it’s articles like yours that help to remind me of my goals and of the blessings that failure brings if one learns from them.

    • Phil South

      March 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm

      Good for you! It’s the reason I like being a writing coach, to inspire people to create.

      Let me know how you get on and by all means tap me for a few tips.


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