When Is It Useful To Fail?

The saying goes, “I would have rather have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.”  Is this true?  Doesn’t some failure have far too lasting and unwanted consequences?  Still, we would learn or experience very little if we stuck to doing what’s already comfortable to us.  And, trying new things we might fail at for awhile can be enriching and exciting.

So, when is it useful to fail?  What level of failure do you find acceptable?  What are your limits?

Related questions:  How do you define success?  Do we learn more from our successes or failures?  Is it okay to be wrong sometimes?

12 thoughts on “When Is It Useful To Fail?”

  1. Failure is necessary for learning. For if I never failed at any one particular thing, I would not learn how to problem solve, try again, or ever succeed at any thing.
    I don’t particulary enjoy failure. However I do at my age, understand it’s purpose in my life.

  2. Perspective. Take the opportunity to learn from it, adapt and overcome. Or one can wallow in the muck. Which actually may be an option for a bit. haha! But not forever certainly. imho

  3. It depends on the consequence of failure or the number of people involved. If you decide to do open heart surgery on a whim it is probably unwise. If the major consequence is losing time while experimenting you should definitely do it. I have learned things in failure that I later used for solving a problem.

    1. I like the idea of looking at the consequnencs of failure. How devistating were the results? If the results are major you probably wouldn’t try again. However if minor, you would learn, and try again, learning from the expreience.

  4. Thomas Edison said – “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That is how I try view things when I am unsuccessful. Success makes us feel good, accomplised, but we don’t learn from it. We learn, rather, from when things don’t go right.
    As a gardener, I “fail” at something every season. Yet, after nearly a quarter century, no one who looks at my gardens as a whole would say they were a failure. By failing I have gained experience and, ultimately success.

    1. I like your using your garden as an example. This year, nearly half my garden was a “failure.” I was not as good at pest control, diversity, or trellising as I have been in previous years. Next year, I will do better.

  5. I believe that observed and used failure brings us closer the truth. Ideas get tested, challenged, proved (somewhat) wrong, and then (hopefully) revised, becoming better … but likely still, not completely true.

    Is it any wonder that much of what humanity has believed during our existence has not been true (e.g. the Earth is not the center of the Universe; natural catastrophes are not the result of gods going to war against each other)?

    So, when is it useful to fail? It’s useful when you do or say something, ready to have it challenged, and then being open to revising what you believe.

    I often wonder how much of what we believe as truth now is wrong. And that’s why I believe healthy doubt is a virtue.

    Quite tangentially, here are a few things I fail at frequently but get better at as time goes on:

    1) I just got a new camera that could lead to me learning about letters like “ISO” and words like “aperture.” I will likely fail to fully use this camera for a few months as I take classes and learn about these concepts and use them accurately. That said, I still don’t know how to take a “perfect” picture no matter what camera … a point and shoot or a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. Well over half of the shots I take get deleted. But without a doubt, my photos have gotten better over time. Some of what I learned were good photos come from online communities.

    2) Each year, like Cecily, something is unsuccessful in my garden. Sometimes I am the reason for that failure. But each year I learn: where to place or how to rotate certain veggies; when is a natural trellis (e.g. a sunflower) good or when should I use my built trellises; what should go back in my garden … not because I love its taste, but because I so enjoy its beauty. Again, some of what I learn comes from what my blogging or Facebook friends have taught me.

    3) On many days I post a blog entry that is really not ready for others’ consumption. I often go back to my posts and edit them dramatically … hopefully before any of my readers get the wrong impression of my thoughts.

    1. I often choose silence so my opinions are not challanged.

      I guess I see an area I am “unsucessfull” in.

      I feel challanged to work on something new.
      Thanks to everyone in this conversation.

  6. Failing at a job interview – you get better each time.
    Cooking – you fail and you realize what you did wrong.
    Really, it’s always useful to fail. Unless it crushes you so that you won’t try again.

    Really, people should purposely try to fail! If they did then they’d be winning at failure! 🙂

  7. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)
    I live this quote daily. It helps me to take risks, to get outside of my comfort zone so that I can get better at whatever I’m trying to do (this could be song writing or teaching or running or hiking). It helps me get out of ruts.

    Another quote that I love that helps me to keep trying and to be fine with not being perfect at something: “Everything is hard before it is easy.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

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