Growing and learning new things implies stepping out of our comfort zone. True differentiation and growth is achievable only if you are willing to dive into new areas1 and try things that may work or not. As a consequence, learning something new always implies the risk of failure.
Several authors write about the importance of failure. If you never risk failure –if you never fail– then you aren’t trying hard enough, you are not learning. As Dan Norris writes in Create or Hate:
If you aren’t regularly failing, you aren’t seeking a new destination. You are following a predictable path that doesn’t lead to anything new and you are learning nothing. You aren’t creating anything either. In other words, you are failing. You are failing to grow and failing to improve and failing to realize your full potential.
Part of the problem is we often forget that stepping out of our comfort zone generates… discomfort. The romantic view we had about our pleasant journey towards our goals gets shattered by reality.
We need to plan our actions in such way that we push ourselves enough to make progress, but don’t strain so much that the effort becomes unsustainable. James Clear calls this the magical zone of long-term growth.
We also need to overcome our ego. We don’t like to fail. At least I don’t. Do you know people that publish their failures on their Facebook timeline? Our ego is so treacherous we can end up creating a narrative rationalizing our behaviour, explaining to ourselves why remaining comfortable, not daring, is the sensible alternative. Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, calls this The Resistance.
Face your fears. Be bold and accept enough risk to make progress, but don’t be reckless or behave like a madman. Be smart and have a safety net. And then, dare to do things that can fail.
- cfr David Van Rooy, Walmart’s Senior Director of International Human Resources Strategy and Operations, quoted by Forbes Magazine. ↩