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14 Aug

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Digression of the week: Learning how to fail better

August 14, 2014 | By | No Comments

Back in the days when winning was “the only thing” and failure was “not an option”, it was rare to hear people talk about their own professional failures.

Yet that is exactly what happened en masse at Toronto’s recent “fail forward” conference.

A conference on failure? We have come a long way in the fight against boardroom politics if you can go to a public setting and watch successful executives and professionals at all levels stand up and share thirty second stories of their biggest gaffes. Yet, in the spirit of professional development, this is just what people did.

Recently failure has become a pervasive topic in career literature. I have mixed feelings about this. I like many others see some of my mistakes as key learning experiences I would never undo. I also see some articles that glorify failure, as if it were something to strive for. That makes for a dangerous mindset.

Whatever my own opinion, I will admit that I would find it pretty tough to stand in front of strangers and admit my failures. I am only just getting used to the idea of admitting them to myself. But the concept of sharing and acknowledging failure may just be the point. Those who spoke at the conference most likely face all the same fears (though I have also met some who would struggle more with the conference’s 30 second time limit). The idea is that it helps you make peace and move forward through acknowledgement and acceptance.

That sounds so difficult and undesirable that it is probably true.

However you view professional failures, one thing is for sure: they have never been so popular.

In that light, perhaps this is a time when we should all take more calculated risks when managing our careers. We seem to have less to lose.

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