Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tim Harford on Success and Failure

It would not be an understatement to say that failure and success have been two key concepts that have defined my life. I know that some of the greatest opportunities for learning in my past have come about from big problems that I have faced and failed to solve effectively. Similarly, the greatest successes have not been arrived at easily and triumphantly but with struggles and stumbles. I have grown and become stronger and more insightful through both the failures and successes. 

I have not always known this though. When I am in the middle of learning and failing, it does not feel good. I do not like myself very much, and it always seems like a very big deal. My self-worth is on the table every single time. This is not only the case with the failures, but also with the successes, because the successes generally are the final outcome of a series of little failures, negotiations, and little successes -- never the glorious final "perfect" endpoint that I imagined. Sometimes the successes come about from making a second or third attempt to find a solution where I have previously failed. The successes are usually coloured by the failures, relationship dramas, and compromises that led up to them. 

Therefore, I was pleased to come across this talk by Tim Harford, economist, in which he addresses in a very straightforward and accessible way strategies for how to fail constructively rather than being beating yourself up over them. If you never fail, then you are not setting hard enough challenges for yourself. 

I have always feared wasting my life. I have always been motivated to make a difference to the world in some small way. This means that I have had to take risks, and with risk-taking failure is more likely. I ask myself, is the pain of sometimes failing worse than the consequence of living a narrow life because of choosing the safe path? If I am to have the courage to fail, it is helpful to have some strategies for acknowledging, coping with, and learning from the failures.

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