Adventurous Thinking means working outside your comfort zone and dancing with failure. No matter how many times we hear that failing makes us better, faster, stronger–the very word still leaves most people quaking at the prospect. Yes, we need to develop a healthy acceptance of small, daily failure in order to fully realize our innovative potential, but let’s not pretend that facing failure is easy!
Here are four simple steps to rethink failure and convert trepidation into Adventurous Thinking.
1. CV of Failure
Last year award-winning leadership coach Rey Castellanos asked me to write my CV of Failure. The very concept was terrifying until it quickly became hugely liberating. Three pages in to recollecting all the times I had made bad judgments, been in the wrong place at the wrong time or simply been beaten by somebody more skilled, I realized just how much I have attempted in my career to date.
Grinning like the Cheshire Cat, I sent my CV to family, then to select friends who passed it on to their friends. Meanwhile Rey uploaded it on his Fail Forward website and the tiny part of me that was still wincing at these public admissions was finally stilled. Sharing is cathartic and as Einstein observed, “failure is success in progress”.
Reading or writing a CV of Failure is actually so much more fun than a CV of Success. For kids, it’s a chance to hear the stories their parents are less likely to tell, the stories that make us human and have us shaking our heads in sympathy. Writing a CV of Failure also reminds you of what you are not good at – so that you don’t make that same mistake again (or in my case, again and again).
2. Reframe “failure” for Adventurous Thinking
The original meaning of “failure” was to “cease supply,” yet we know that the lessons from every failed venture help us grow. Clearly then, the things we adventurously attempt that do not succeed need a new word that demonstrates the progress we are making. In basketball, a player who retrieves a ball after a botched goal is awarded a rebound. Progress! Rebound is a much more accurate way to consider your attempts than “failure.” Every time something doesn’t go according to plan, name it a rebound, refer to it with others as a rebound, and take at least ten minutes to dissect the results and list the ways you can use them to move forward.
3. Practice makes imperfect
Which is OK. All the great innovators failed prolifically. As Thomas Edison put it, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Be like da Vinci and Picasso, and spend 5-10 minutes a day trying something new.
I have a routine where I force myself to read about technology, science, or some other subject I’m not well-versed in for five minutes, then spend the next five minutes thinking hard to relate that innovation to the work I am currently doing. I can rarely find a connection – but that’s the point. Robert F Kennedy said “only those who risk failure will succeed brilliantly.” One day, this exercise could bring my next light bulb moment. In the meantime, it keeps my brain fresh.
4. Find your people
It really is incredible how a good quote can lift your spirits and deliver camaraderie and comfort. Dig around the Internet and find people you admire and chances are they will have delivered a good line on resilience and rebounding. Keep these words close and share them with others. We are all in this together! Here are five of my favorites:
- “Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” – Coco Chanel
- “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller
- “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” –Winston Churchill
- “It doesn’t matter how far you might rise — at some point, you are bound to stumble. Because if you’re constantly doing what we do — raising the bar — if you’re constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages predicts that you will, at some point, fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure — failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” – Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Harvard commencement class of 2013
And finally – the oracle says it best:
- “The fall is not a failure. The fail is to stay fallen.” – Socrates
Adventurous Thinking is all about opening doors and activating your creative potential. A rebound mindset that embraces uncertainty and setback is an essential part of this innovation strategy. Understand the value of the rebound, congratulate yourself for having a go, and move on. In the timeless words of Dr Seuss, “when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too!”
Want to incorporate Adventurous Thinking into your own life? RSVP to learn how from Sally Dominguez.