There are countless articles, videos, and motivational quotes from wildly successful people telling you to celebrate your failures. It is important to maintain your focus and keep a positive outlook on things in the midst of a perceived failure, but I do tend to stop short of celebrating them. In itself, there is no value in failure. It is, however, a clear indicator of an opportunity worth getting excited about. We should celebrate the opportunity instead. When we fail (or judge ourselves to have done so), one of at least three celebration-worthy opportunities is available to us: we can learn, grow, or explore.
Three opportunities signaled by failure
Learning: The chance to know something new
Failure can sometimes be an indicator that we did not have all of the information needed to be successful. It exposes knowledge gaps that we never knew existed and gives us the opportunity to close them and try again. And celebrating learning instead gives you an opportunity to learn from successes as well.
Growing: The chance to be able do something new
There are times when we fall short because of our skills in a certain area. We can all get better at communication, data analysis, listening–a broad range of improvable skills–if we see failure as an indicator that there is an opportunity to grow in those areas. Celebrating growth keeps us looking forward and focused on the ingredients to future success that we can control. And the good news is that growth can come from successful experiences, too.
Exploring: The chance to try something new
Unexamined success has a way of locking us into a set way of doing things. As the old adage says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If we aren’t careful, great outcomes can be missed in an effort to consistently achieve good outcomes. Celebrating the act of trying something new reminds us to explore possibilities outside the familiar routine from time to time. Focusing on exploring instead of failure means you can learn this lesson from successful experiences as well.
Why it matters
In any functioning organization, there will be more successes than missteps. Focusing on learning, growth, and exploration turns those successes into opportunities to improve as well. Seeing failure as a signal to improve in these areas can help reshape your culture more broadly than celebrating outcome-focused, judgement based failure.
How is failure treated in your organization? Do you celebrate the failure or the opportunity?