Fail Like a Scientist

We’ve all failed at various points in our lives and to varying degrees. If you haven’t, then quite frankly, you’ve never pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone.

I’ve failed at many things in life, I’ve failed dismally in exams because I read around the subject too much and didn’t answer the question with the information I’d been taught. I’ve got on the wrong connecting trains and been fined on numerous occasions. I’ve parked in car parks that I thought were free, turns out they weren’t! I’ve fluffed presentations, and job interviews, and emails, and just about every other form of communication.

My repertoire of failure knows no bounds because I don’t. In fact, I think the biggest and most unacceptable failure is never trying – that to me is the bigger sin. So many people fail before they’ve even taken the first step and I know, from my own experience, that more often than not I’ve wildly exceeded my expectations with what I can achieve when I put my mind to it and I take the first step.

An example of one of my massive-face-palm-failings is when I was in my second year of university and I studied abroad in Australia. I was 21 when I left and appropriately naïve for that age. I had barely any savings, didn’t plan anywhere to live when I turned up there, and what’s worse, I chose the cheapest flight which meant I had to go to my orientation on the day of my arrival. How I thought I would get to the university I don’t know. I didn’t change up any dollars, check my card would work abroad or carry any cash with me. Perhaps even more unbelievably, I didn’t even know what one of the many campuses it was on and you guessed it, my phone didn’t work abroad either.

So after a 26 hour journey and with swollen legs from not realising that I’d have to move around a bit on the plane, and having had no TV for half of the flight but being too scared to say anything, I was in Melbourne in 38 degree heat, with a university orientation to attend in less than 2 hours, with no idea where it was, a big case in tow, and with nowhere to live. That, my friends, is failure.

Would I do that again?

The answer is, of course, I wouldn’t! But was it so bad I can laugh about it now, knowing that experience really is the best teacher? Absolutely! That was a few years ago now, but it has a big part to play in my view of failure, which can be summed up roughly as: sometimes you win some and sometimes you loose some. But, to me, the biggest failure is never having tried.

When you start to see failure in this way, your failings have less of an effect on you. As a scientist stands back and observes the experiment while plotting the outcomes on a graph, so to do you begin to move through life gaining more and more experience and learning from your so called wins and losses. In reality, they’re all data points, it’s what you do with the learning that counts.

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