The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success
a European executive who works for a company that has failed is an executive who no longer has a career. In America, by contrast, having tried (and failed) to start your own company is often a résumé boosterparticularly in the fertile fields of Silicon Valley. It marks you as a risk taker, a self-starter, someone who is not afraid to shoulder a whole lot of responsibility. And the (correct) assumption is that in your failure, youve learned a lot of valuable lessons that your new employer will benefit from. On the two continents, the exact same set of circumstances signal wildly different things: in Europe, that you are irresponsible, and perhaps too lazy and incompetent to run a business, in America, that you are a risk taker and a visionary.
By contrast, a modern person lives surrounded by strangers who are doing things they may not understand. We cannot rely on our instincts and our relationships to keep society working. So its more important than ever to make sure that we get the rules right. If we want our economy to grow, it means looking for ways to support experimental risk-taking by trading a little more than we may instinctively be comfortable with. It means offering big payoffs to those who are willing to take big risks but also making sure that the unlucky dont starve. In short, it means accepting that a high degree of unpredictability goes with the hunting ground.
Dweck encourages parents and teachers to praise children for their effort, rather than their intelligence, talent, or looks.
fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you really are is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome.
If theyre forced into a challenge they dont feel prepared for, they may even engage in what psychologists call self-handicapping: deliberately doing things that will hamper their performance in order to give themselves an excuse for not doing well.
If theyre forced into a challenge they dont feel prepared for, they may even engage in what psychologists call self-handicapping: deliberately doing things that will hamper their performance in order to give themselves an excuse for not doing well. Self-handicapping can be fairly spectacular: in one study, men deliberately chose performance-inhibiting drugs when facing a task they didnt expect to do well on.7 Instead of studying, writes the psychologist Edward Hirt, a student goes to a movie the night before an exam. If he performs poorly, he can attribute his failure to a lack of studying rather than to a lack of ability or intelligence. On the other hand, if he does well on the exam, he may conclude that he has exceptional ability, because he was able to perform well without studying.8 Writers who dont produce copyor leave it so long that they couldnt possibly produce something goodare giving themselves the perfect excuse for not succeeding. Work finally begins, says Alain de Botton, when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly. For people with an extremely fixed mind-set, that tipping point quite often never happens. They fear nothing so much as finding out that they never had what it takes.
Learning to fail well means learning to understand your mistakes, because unless you know what went wrong, you may do the wrong things to correct it.
Like most people, I couldn't let go of the money we'd wasted. That's why so many people eat awful meals, watch horrible movies, read terrible books, and suffer through dreadful relationships. It's why I am far from the only woman who wasted her early thirties on a relationship that wasn't going anywhere. The psychological cost of conceding that you've made a huge mistake--worse, a mistake you can't fix--is too great. So you waste even more money, or time, or effort trying to somehow salvage what you've lost.
Most of all, learning to fail well means overcoming our natural instincts to blame someonemaybe ourselveswhenever something goes wrong.
Most of the time you can get away with launching a terrible product, or with not washing your hands, but one time in a thousand, you will kill a person, or a company.
object is to take lots of small, manageable risks, because that, he says, is the only way to figure out what really works.
The alternative to villains who have done something wrong is a universe where bad things sometimes happen to people who dont deserve them.
the people who dislike challenges think that talent is a fixed thing that youre either born with or not. The people who relish them think that its something you can nourish by doing stuff youre not good at.
The reason we struggle with insecurity, says Pastor Steven Furtick, is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone elses highlight reel.
The secret to catching your mistakes quickly is simple: treat outside information as if it were inside information. When someone tells you youre off track, dont look for reasons why they may be wrong; listen for reasons why they might be right.
We have made it impossible for children to fall very farand in so doing, we have robbed them of the joys of climbing high.
Work finally begins, says Alain de Botton, when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.
Writers who dont produce copyor leave it so long that they couldnt possibly produce something goodare giving themselves the perfect excuse for not succeeding.