Those who fail, ultimately win

Wer scheitert, gewinnt!

According to the motto “It’s not failure that makes us fail!”, the ’Junger Senat des Senats der Wirtschaft’( Young Senate of the economy Senat) is hosting a panel discussion, along with manageers, on May 10th, thus bringing to attention one of the most precious Mind-Shift-issues of our time.

Failure has many faces. While, for example, in research and development, everyday failure is a necessary element in the context of experiments, in society and economy there is a stigma attached to failure – now more than ever.

Psychologist and error researcher Olaf Morgenroth has pointedly captured the problem in a nutshell.

“Especially in individual oriented societies, failure poses a threat to self-esteem.”

The spirit of the Renaissance, the (over) emphasis on the individual appears to have us cornered in this regard. But does it really have to be that way?

Somewhere I read, that failure is an interplay of inner perception and the opinions of our surroundings. Personally, I would even condense it to the inner perception only. Ultimately, it does not matter whether a person considers the other as “failed”, what is decisive as to whether this individual considers themself as a failure, is how much they identify with this failure, how personally they take it.

In the book “failure – aspects of a social phenomenon”  By Matthias Junge and Götz Lechner (Hrsg.), the attempt is made to get to the bottom of the problem. Behind the stigma of failure, for example, this is the assumed reason:

“[…] Because failure embodies the opposite of the modern age’s promise of happiness: All problems are solvable, if you only work with the resources of reason to overcome them.”

With our unattainable illusory expectations of us and our environment, we ultimately produce anxiety. Fear of failure, fear of not achieving goals, fear of loss of livelihood. This, however, sends you into thoughts spirals that can tear you down emotionally and psychologically. Science is aware of the problem and calls such “dysfunctional congnitions”, i.e. harmful thought patterns, a precursor for despair. Thus, the overly idealized pressure to succeed we expose ourselves to, and the resulting fear, are forerunners of depression and burnout. Surprised, anyone?

Failure is shit. To summarize  it in the words of a good friend. Yet, I personally believe that failure can make us stronger and is one of the sources of our experience.

I hope that we find systems to utilize our failure synergistically. A great example for me is the Drupal community. Worldwide, more than 1 million developers are working on new developments and applications with a web-based project management system. They openly share their experiences, which permits others to learn from their mistakes, or to take into account the experience already gained, when trying new approaches. This experience does not stop at technical developments, but involves all aspects, including business, of the life of a Drupal developer. “Failed projects” are therefore an integral part of the intellectual infrastructure.

I see failure as an opportunity and have even come to look on the entire area of conflict between success and failure with different eyes. Failure is not only an everyday experience, but also in the literally sense, personality development.

This is why events such as the previously mentioned panel disussion of the Senate, are so important and valuable for the “evolution of the spirit”. If we want to be prepared for the future and wish for alert spirits to implement valuable ideas, today or in the future, our mind setting is the only relevant thing we can work on. Away from false pride, towards joint action and exchange. In practice, it is important that motivated individuals get such opportunities to exchange ideas, and especially the framework to network in an environment of like-minded people.

Let us have open conversations about our problems and low points. We award respect to those who do not give up despite their setbacks. For: dealing with failure costs far more strength than being successful does. Working toward success consumes far more than having achieved success.

Or, as Nelson Mandela put it:

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Translation from German: Serena Nebo


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Wer scheitert, gewinnt! Wer scheitert, gewinnt! Christian Avgulas CC BY-SA 4.0