“Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.”
John C. Maxwell (Failing Forward)
TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about failure. A word associated with massive negative connotation. Imbedded within insecurity, fear of failure enforces the concept that we need to avoid failure if want to be successful. That failure is for the weak and lazy. That if you are intelligent and industrious, failure can be avoided. This is wrong and ignorant. Failure – and how we cope with it’s force – is of crucial importance to our character development.
Why is failure important? Failure is part of the iterative process of learning. Like trial-and-error, it is a basic process that we master in order to develop higher forms of reasoning and decision making. Thomas A. Edison writes, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Failure allows us to improve processes and techniques and is essential to the learning of individuals, growth of organizations, and coherence of cultures. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better”; these words by Samuel Beckett see failure as this fundamental process of learning.
Why is fear of failure debilitating? The shame of failure comes from the pervasive negative assumption that failure is an ultimate end. In truth, failure is just another step in the process. I’m a vitreoretinal surgeon and I regularly operate on blinding diseases. I am humbled by the eye and the gravity of complications that may, without notice, occur during surgery. I orchestrate every movement to avoid complications, but I do not fear them. If so, I would be paralyzed with fear and overwhelmed by the weight of possibility. This would dramatically hinder my performance and limit my ability to help patients. Show me a surgeon with no complications, and I’ll show you a surgeon who never operates. Failures are not final but part of evolving solutions and strategies.
How can you erase your fear of failure? If you fail at something, the first step is to give yourself the opportunity to learn from it. There is a twisted irony in the failure to learn from your failures. Don’t do this. Take ownership of your failure. “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else” (John Burroughs). Realize your error. Take ownership of the failure. Accept responsibility for the consequences. This provides you with immense learning. See this as a temporary event and in no way a synopsis of your life.
MEDICINE & MACULA: Check out our new feature in the September 2016 issue of Retina Today entitled, Postoperative Infectious Endophthalmitis: Evolving Trends and Techniques.
Infectious endophthalmitis is a vision-threatening condition that involves inflammation of the entire eye. Early vitrectomy for endophthalmitis provides significant benefit in removing infectious material. We describe how vitreoretinal practices have changed with the adoption of small-gauge surgery.
GRATIS: If you’re not failing often, you’re not trying hard enough.
My best to you,