The meaning of learning has changed enormously over recent decades. In the modern world, with every source of knowledge available for everyone, learning can be categorized as acquiring knowledge or discovery and exploration.
Discovery and exploration being more valuable and practical in our life. No institution can teach you what you can learn from your own experience. Good experiences add less to your knowledge. On the other hand, failures that leave us devastated, are an excellent stepping stone to achieving greatness.
“Life’s hardest moments teach us to step out of our comfort zone and step into growth by learning and discovering our most inner selves.”
Importance of Failures
Morgan McCall, Professor Emeritus of Management and Organization at USC Marshall School of Business, made the “the 70:20:10 rule” famous. The 70:20:10 rule shifts our focus on the importance of trial and failure to get knowledge, wisdom, and develop success.
The rule suggests that 70% of learning takes place through “experience in a role”. Whereas coaching sessions and training programs contribute to the remaining 20% and 10%, respectively. The rule is widely accepted among executives and leaders, and is now a reckoned leadership development practice.
Young people try to learn from others’ experiences while starting their careers. Given that every person’s responsibilities vary, as we all grow, we realize that the case studies about the achievements of others are far less relevant to our own context.
“Your own experiences are unique and the richest source of learning in your life.”
Moreover, if you are only focused on earning from others’ experiences, you will only come across the things that everybody else knows. Only your own experiences, either gained by a failed or successful experiment, can lead you to the discovery of unique truths that no one knows yet.
New experiences, especially those that turned out to be failures, provide perfect learning opportunities. With every failed attempt the learner gets a chance to think about the scenarios, the actors, plan of action, and overall process that was the cause of failure.
A failed person knows the factor that halted their success. The number of failed attempts add to the number of barriers you continue to identify and remove from your way towards achieving success. As you remove all the barriers, you can then race without them towards your success.
“The fear of failure is actually the fear of learning to remove the barriers towards your success.”
While success is obviously sweeter than failure, failure is the greatest teacher you’ll ever encounter in your life. Vinit Desai, Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, shows that organizations that fail spectacularly often bounce back with greater potential for even greater success.
“The knowledge gained by success is far less impactful and fades away fast, but what failure teaches us sticks with us for years.”
How to Learn from Failures
Failures can add much to your value if you learn from them. There are hundreds of examples you can find of people who got successful from the ashes of their failures. There are certain behaviors that enables you to get knowledge and growth from your failed experiences.
First, you need to own your failure. You can never learn from them until you admit that you’ve made them. Don’t be a victim pointing fingers at the market, or people, or external circumstances. All those circumstances were things you didn’t properly plan for. You can do better next time around. Own the outcomes in your life.
“Blaming external forces for your failures is a sure way to avoid learning and growing, and that is the greatest of all failures in life.”
The initial shock of failing may cause some negativity around you. People will judge you. Your job is not to be defined by other people’s views and opinions. Your job is to reframe your failures as opportunities to learn.
It is important to have an expansive and growth-oriented mindset that is always ready to accept challenges, rather than having a fixed mindset that keeps you locked into your ego.
Once you have owned your failures, have absorbed the shock and admitted it as an opportunity to grow, sit back and think about what you could do better next time. You need to identify the knowledge, resources, plan, or tools that can keep you from repeating the errors which led to the failure.
You need to re-evaluate your planning and the execution. Failure can come from a bad plan or poor execution, or a good plan that wasn’t executed well. At times, large scale failures could have been easily prevented by detecting and solving minor mistakes at the root. Sit with yourself reflecting to identify the mistake, then plan to resolve it.
By evaluating all the factors, you will be able to rule out any plan of action, experience, a team member, or a resource that translated into failure. Learning from failures is very important, but putting the learnings into practice is more important.
Failures are the least desired thing on the earth; however, this is an erroneous way to see failures. Imagine if science was afraid to fail, we would never discover cures to disease. We would also never make any progress in containing pandemics. The success equation of science includes more failures than success.
Once you have identified a mistake, never allow the circumstances to repeat, rather see the value failures can add to your growth. No failure will ever be considered a setback when you see it as nothing more than a successfully proven wrong outcome.
Fail often and fail upwards till you remove every barrier to achieve your ultimate success in life.