My eight-year-old daughter has a pet cantaloupe. The errant melon appeared in our truck after a party last weekend; she discovered it in on the floor in the back seat as we were getting ready to leave. Was it a practical joke? Was it a case of mistaken vehicle? We’ll never know. But instantly, my daughter decided it would make a great pet. She named it Bob. He looks quite nice in her visor, don’t you think?
I am telling you this because taking chances–in your creative work, in your life, in business–is a tricky business, unless you are eight years old and don’t realize that no one has a pet cantaloupe or you have heaps of self-esteem and could give a hoot what people think of you. Since the only eight-year-old who reads–ok, glances at–my blog is my daughter, I’m guessing you are somewhere in between that rock and hard place.
Think about it: when was the last time you did something silly, something really out there, without needing 5-10 adult beverages first? No one likes to say, “I failed,” or
have people snicker at Bob their pet cantaloupe. But this Fast Company post, “Fail More, Win More,” by FC’s expert blogger and entrepreneur Josh Linkner reminds us of how important it is to put yourself out there–even if you’re terrified:
“James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson Vacuum cleaner, “failed” at over 5,000 prototypes before getting it just right. In fact, nearly every breakthrough innovation came after countless setbacks, mistakes, and “failures.” When you study the great innovators and achievers in history, it turns out that they weren’t necessarily smarter or inherently more talented. They simply released their fear of failure and kept trying. They didn’t let setbacks or misfires extinguish their curiosity and imagination.”
I’m not saying that my daughter is a failure or a loser for choosing a melon for a pet (it’s a step down from last month’s rock, at least the rock won’t rot), although it would be infinitely easier if she had imaginary friends like everyone else. I’m saying that because she’s eight, she was not afraid to go with her first reaction when the errant melon appeared: wouldn’t it be fun to pretend this melon is my pet?
The older you get, say starting around age 9, you realize that many people think it’s uncool to have a pet cantaloupe, let alone fail at ANYTHING. This makes it infinitely more difficult to go with the first thought that pops in your head when you are trying to be creative and authentic. This is when the internal editor, the creativity censor is born and creative ideas get shut down.
Let’s face it, no one wants to be put on display for public/friend and family ridicule. Social media, camera phones and YouTube make it all too easy for our failures to go public in seconds. Is it any wonder that we’re all terrified of expressing a thought or idea that might fail, of trying something new? Of going out on a limb? Who wants to be that vulnerable?
Because without your original thoughts, ideas and voice, we are just getting more of the same. We’re not taking risks. We’re not evolving. We’re not teaching our children that it’s OK to fail, that it’s the trying, the not giving up, that’s the thing. Linkner goes on to say:
“I believe a required element of public school curriculum should include a class called MAKING MISTAKES. It would teach kids that mistakes are okay. That it is better to try and fail than never try at all. That every bull’s eye is the result of 100 misses. It could help grow their confidence and resilience, and prepare them for the dynamic and constantly-changing world of the future.”
Our entire culture–the American Dream at its core–is based on dreams of success. But in reality, it’s the journey that counts. Giving yourself and everyone around you at work and at home the permission to fail is the best gift you can give. So go ahead–adopt a pet cantaloupe. Bring back your imaginary friends. Go out on a limb. Be vulnerable. Be brave. Be a failure. It’s the most creative way to win.
So how about you? What will you give yourself permission to fail at today?