Do we tell our failure stories?

Have you ever heard failure stories?

Chances are, you didn’t, as we all are a part of a culture where we proudly flaunt our successes, yet face difficulty when it comes to admitting failure. Failure, which is though recognized as the stepping stone to success, is a phase not many are comfortable to deal with, let alone admitting in public our failure stories.

No one wants to be the person who goes around telling stories of their failure. As much burdensome failure is, narrating stories of failure is painstakingly onerous. After all, it’s embarrassing to admit that one has failed.

“My failure story would go with me to my grave.”- That’s what a majority of us believe in.

“Let’s think otherwise”, appeals Anjali, one of our fellow GreyBians in an email to her team, in which she not just narrated her own failure story, but also gave her team a reason to admit theirs.

Wondering what the content of her mail is?

Fret not, we have published her original email (With her consent, of course) below. Do let us know what you think about it, in comments.

A minute after hitting the send button on my reply to Nitin’s mail on Great Read, I had a panic attack.

I committed a blunder. I just admitted that I think I am not good enough to author a book.

Why do I think it’s a blunder?

Because I got myself into a vulnerable position. I might have just created an impression that I’m failing at some aspect of my job. If you have been writing for a while of time, it is natural that the next transition in your career might be a book. Yes, that’s the next level. Some make the transition soon, for others, it takes a while before it happens.

I just admitted that the transition might not be happening anytime soon, in my case.

Now let me tell you this, if you are doing your work and come up with a book as a side project and successfully complete it, and if people like the material beneath it, you will bask in the glory of your success. Yes, you will. In an alternative scenario, you have your book as a side project and it doesn’t appease to your own tastes, let alone others, you still win. It wasn’t expected of you. You tried. You might create a masterpiece in your life. Both of these are win-win scenarios. Even in the latter, you didn’t fail.

Now here’s a third scenario – You are expected to write a book. Given that you like writing and you have been dying to write a book since you were 16, you jump on the opportunity and say- Yes I can, Yes I will. Mind it, you are not writing fiction, neither are you expected to write a prequel to the Harry potter story. You are supposed to write a book of a niche you know a little about. You’re learning every day, but you don’t know enough to write a book on the subject. You still give it a try, and at some point of time you’re told, I don’t think this material is novel. This is something we already know. Except for a bit of twist in the plot, I think we all know this matter already.

And then your self-esteem falls. And you realize that the comment is true. You know a little about the subject, a niche that take people years to learn and everyday while your book continues to lie in a side waiting to be completed, it occurs to you that a concept you were supposed to write pages on, is something you got completely wrong.

Now people make mistakes. No big deal. But what if the person with that basic level of knowledge, was trying to write a book on the subject. No brownie points for guessing, it would be a failure.  And that’s why I stopped. I won’t say I didn’t try again. I did. And every time I tried my hand on it, I realized, there was something amiss. It either didn’t appeal to my tastes, I got facts wrong, I didn’t have sufficient data and at some point, I believed no one was going to read it. There are people out there writing excellent stuff, uncovering facets I didn’t know of. There is no way I could be  a part of that league. I don’t think I can write a book.  I guess I failed.

If this had happened to a person in the second scenario, they won’t get judged. They tried. For the person in the third scenario, they will be deemed as a failure.

How do you save yourself from the embarrassment of being deemed as a failure? Keep it to yourself. Never admit it that you think you failed. People judge and they will remind you about it, all the time.

I had been mum on this subject for a  very long time. I was scared that if I admitted I failed, I won’t be respected anymore. I feared that if the topic comes up in a situation, what would I say?

“I think I can’t write. ”

No one says that.

We have all been brought up in a culture where we proudly share our success stories but hardly talk about our failures. We all can say “I achieved this, I did that” but we all are scared to admit “I failed here. I haven’t got this.”

Admit it, we all are scared of failure. And more than that we are scared of admitting our failures.

But is keeping our failure stories to ourself a solution?

No, it isn’t.

There’s a reason beneath the proverb- “Failure is the stepping stone to success.” When you fail, you aren’t supposed to keep things to yourself and let people think you got it. You admit you are failing and ask for help to win over the situation. The stepping stone is sometimes the help you get from someone after admitting that you’ve failed. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you failed. But when you admit it, it shows you’re ready to win over the situation.

I had been reading about great companies and one thing I found in common amongst a majority of them is transparency. They sometimes win, at other times fail. And when they fail, they admit it’s a mistake and continue on their path to greatness.

And that’s the lesson I took from them.

I just told my failure story. I might get judged, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. Because next time when I’m ready for the transition, I won’t be scared of asking for help if needed.

It takes courage to admit failure.  But once you do, you get yourself that stepping stone that would help you win. The stepping stone that would help you succeed in life. Let me end this by leaving with you a question-

Will you admit failure the next time you fail?

Are you courageous enough to tell your failure story? Think about it.



PS: Curious to find how we think internally? Here’s where you could quench your thirst- Internal Emails Archives


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