How Have You Failed Today? - Julie Brown Neu

How Have You Failed Today?

report card full of A+ marks with the word perfection written on top

I went to a conference last week where the keynote speaker was Dr. Sarah Lewis, Harvard professor and author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery. In her talk, she shared that the parents of Sarah Blakely, billionaire CEO and founder of Spanx, asked “How did you fail today?” at the dinner table each night as a way to normalize failure. It’s something I am considering doing with my daughter who, despite me constantly saying, “perfection is overrated,” seems to still be failing in the trap of ridiculously high expectations that haunts so many of us and holds us back.  Blakely credits her parents’ question with helping her to have the persistence to continue creating her products and building her business as the “failures” mounted.

Failure is, of course, a key part of the creative process. Creating involves experimenting. To make something new, you have to try different things and some of those things will not work. But, how comfortable are you with that? Are you willing to do things you haven’t done before, knowing that it might not work? When the first attempt fails, do you push on to the second attempt, third attempt, tenth? Can you ignore the “rules” for a while and focus on just enjoying the process without worrying about creating something that’s “perfect”?

Think about how you will fail today. Do you have a project or an unfinished object that wasn’t working so you gave up on it? Pull it out and try again. What didn’t work the first time? How could you approach it differently? Do you need help to do what you want to do? Give a previous “failure” another try because it is often when we push past our creative challenge that something truly wonderful emerges.

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