I have been reading about the value of failure. Nothing is more counter intuitive in self-help or business literature. Authors will pause for a half second to acknowledge the importance of Steve Jobs firing from Apple in his eventual success and then go on and on about how to avoid failure.
I am not sure if I fear failure. I try new things and take risks. However, if I am truly bad at something, like the swim team, I quit before anyone can name it a failure. Then I tried moving to New Zealand and it flopped. Sure I made super friends and good things have come from my redesign. Yet I am not actually living in New Zealand as I write this. I could reframe it as something else and not use the “f-word”. I prefer to revel in fact that I failed. And survived.
On my last visit to New Zealand, UK Sarah and I had the chance to fossick around Auckland’s High Street and I found this amazing children’s book: Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beatty, illustrations by David Roberts. Here is my favorite excerpt:
Rosie was a natural inventor and was happy creating all sorts of inventions until one day one of her Uncles laughed at her and she was mortified. She stopped inventing until her Great-great aunt Rose came to visit and mentioned that all of the things she’d done, she still wanted to fly. Rosie was inspired to create a heli-o-cheese-copter.
“Strapped into the cockpit, she flipped on the switch. The heli-o-cheese-copter sputtered and twitched. It floated a moment and whirled round and round, then froze for a heartbeat and crashed to the ground.
The Rosie heard laughter and turned round to see the old woman laughing and slapping her knee. She laughed till she wheezed and her eyes filled with tears all to the horror of Rosie Revere, who thought, “Oh, no! Never! Not ever again will I try to build something to sputter or spin or build with a lever, a switch, or a gear. And never will I be a great engineer.”
She turned round to leave, but then Great-Great-Aunt Rose grabbed hold of young Rosie and puller in close and hugged her and kissed her and started to cry. “You did it! Hooray! It’s the perfect first try! The great flop is over. It’s time for the next!”
Young Rosie was baffled, embarrassed, perplexed. “I failed,” said dear Rosie. “It’s just made of trash. Didn’t you see it? The cheese-copter crashed.”
“Yes!” said her great aunt. “It crashed. That is true. But first it did just what it needed to do. Before it crashed, Rosie… before that… it flew!”
“Your brilliant first flop was a raging success! Come on, let’s get busy and on to the next!” She handed a notebook to Rosie Revere, who smiled at her aunt as it all become clear. Life might have its failures, but this was not it. The only true failure can come if you quit.”