As I mention here, we should be failing on a regular basis. I want to fail. To not fail usually means I’m not pushing hard enough. Not trying new things. And there are vital lessons that we learn when we fail that can only be learned through failure.

The road to success is paved with past failures. Success doesn’t happen “all of a sudden.”

So I want to experience failure. But I want to do it on my own terms—on small-scale endeavors, where the risk is low and controlled.

This is a fringe benefit of the microcosm approach to accomplishment, explained here. First, you deconstruct a larger goal, vision, or objective into smaller components. Then you create microcosms for yourself to recreate those components in smaller, more manageable endeavors. By doing this, when you fail (and you occasionally will, or should if they’re challenging enough), you ensure that the failures happen on your terms—when it doesn’t matter as much or when there’s less risk.

By taking this approach to controlled failure, you gain several benefits. The first, of course, is that by failing on the small stuff and learning your lessons, you’re less likely to fail on the big stuff, when it really matters.

The second is that you learn how to cope with failure. You learn to see it for what it is, a means to an end. Failure is put in perspective, as part of the path to growth as opposed to something personal. It’s not an indication that you’re worthless, that you’re no good, that you’re doomed and should just give up. It’s an indication that you’re fighting a good fight, that you’re challenging yourself, and that you still have work to do.

In a way, you become desensitized to failure. By intentionally making it a more frequent component of your life (in the manner of your choosing), you become more objective about it. You’re better able to separate yourself from the equation and approach it more analytically. You’ll learn more from it, because you’ll have the benefit of both frequency and objectivity.

By making controlled failure a more common component of your life, you’re less prone to negatively react to larger failures that you’ll inevitably encounter. You’ll be more apt to respond positively, retain your optimism, and have the faith and self confidence to persevere.

If you avoid failure by avoiding circumstances where you may fail, you’ll experience failure less frequently, but that only makes it all the more severe and emotionally destructive when you do.

So don’t fear failure. Don’t shy away from it. Embrace it, but do it on your terms, using the microcosm approach to accomplishment.

-Rusty

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