A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my hatred of failure while acknowledging that there are things I hate more (inertia, blind allegiance to the status quo, unwillingness to try) that motivate me to risk it.
In response, I received this email from my friend and former colleague Daymara, now the Founder & CEO of Rockin’ Baker in Fayetteville, AR (shared here with her permission)
I’m the opposite. I love failing! That’s when I learn the most, that I question what and how I could better, question more and more. It triggers my brain to look back, re-evaluate, assess and spring forward. I wouldn’t be here today if I had not risked. I don’t think anyone starts anything thinking when they’d fail. But some of us aren’t afraid or hate it. I wouldn’t be here if I hate failing, wouldn’t have left my country looking for a safer place, wouldn’t have launched RBI because I didn’t have any entrepreneurial experience not even in the hospitality industry, wouldn’t have switched to focus on neurodiversity and so much more.
Because I came to the US, I got to meet you. Yes, I failed at seeing the signs & lost over 60% of my savings just 2 weeks before leaving Venezuela. I could’ve decided to stay because maybe it was going to be harder and the risk of failing in a country I didn’t know higher. I had a plan. If it didn’t work, come back home & start all over again.
I started RBI understanding that I could fail. I told myself, if I did, at least I would have an answer. Yes, I’m failing terribly at making this social enterprise work. Yet, I’ve gained so much knowledge about humanity, our differences, the unfairness that neurodivergents have to live daily, running a social enterprise and so much more. If I had hated failing, I wouldn’t be sharing my experience with other entrepreneurs so they don’t make the same mistakes I made. I wouldn’t be advocating for more equitable places for all, including women.
Failing feeds me to do better, to ask more questions, to explore more, to lead me to become better. I don’t love failing, I welcome it.
My first thought was, “Wow, this is so healthy! I wish more people felt and acted this way!”
My second thought was, “I wouldn’t apply the word ‘fail’ to any of these situations. You’re trying, learning, changing, and trying again.:
Just because you don’t get the expected outcome the first time doesn’t mean you failed.
Or does it?
What the Dictionary Says
According to Oxford Languages, “fail” (verb) means
- Be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal, “he failed in his attempt to secure election.”
- Neglect to do something, “the firm failed to give adequate risk warnings.”
- Break down; cease to work well, “a truck whose brakes had failed.”
True but contextual:
- If success is defined as launching a new product, but customer feedback proves there’s no demand or willingness to pay, is shutting it down a failure?
- If you neglect something that isn’t important or doesn’t have significant ramifications, like not eating breakfast, did you fail or simply forget, run out of time, or make a mistake?
- If something works but not well, like an expense reporting system, is it a failure or just burdensome, a pain, or a necessary evil?
What People Say
“Fail” has so many definitions and meanings in Daymara’s telling of her story. In addition to some of the dictionary’s definitions, she also uses “Fail” to mean:
- Take smart risks, “I could’ve decided to stay because maybe it was going to be harder and the risk of failing in a country I didn’t know higher. I had a plan. If it didn’t work, come back home & start all over again.”
- Get new information to facilitate learning,
- “I’m the opposite. I love failing! That’s when I learn the most, that I question what and how I could better, question more and more. It triggers my brain to look back, re-evaluate, assess and spring forward.”
- I started RBI understanding that I could fail. I told myself, if I did, at least I would have an answer.
- Adapt and change based on learning, “wouldn’t have switched to focus on neurodiversity”
- Grow, improve, evolve, “Failing feeds me to do better, to ask more questions, to explore more, to lead me to become better. I don’t love failing, I welcome it.”
What Do You Say?
Like “Innovation,” “Failure” is a word we all use A LOT that no longer has a common definition. In the dictionary, failure is bad and to be avoided. To Daymara and scores of entrepreneurs and innovators, failure is wonderful and welcome.
Progress, either towards or away from failure, requires us to define “Failure” for ourselves and our work and agree on a definition with our teammates.
So, tell me:
- What is failure to you?
- To your team?
- To your boss?