I was recently referred to a wonderful site with great blogs. In particular I love one about farming and the fear of failure. Anyone who’s tried their hand at something new risks failure, and farming is fraught with possibilities for doing things quite wrong.
It got me to thinking about failure in general, though. I recently entered the world of weaving, thanks to a generous (very) gift of a floor loom and loan of a smaller table loom. Both arrived with some terrific reference materials, and I did my homework before trying my first warp. That one took two of us nearly two days to complete (and that was on the smallest loom). Then I sat down to weave.
I was hooked from the first shuttle throw, and being hooked is rather important when one heads into the unknown. I made several thousand mistakes on that first piece, from warping boo-boos to wonky edges to missed threads on shuttle throws. I had to look up every term used in the books because most ‘new worlds’ have their own languages, and weaving is no exception.
But the most interesting thing that happened was I realized how much I had learned with that first attempt. When I was done I knew a whole lot about weaving jargon, why warp tension is important, how to smooth out those edges, what a difference a yarn change makes and lots more. I could hardly wait to get going on the second project, during which I more than doubled my understanding of the ins and outs (literally) of weaving.
So … did I fail at weaving on either of those attempts? I certainly made a boatload of mistakes, but were they failures?
Of course not. Mistakes are just mistakes, and they also happen to be the most efficient way we learn new things. Because I was enthralled with the idea of weaving, I wasn’t discouraged when something didn’t turn out quite like I had anticipated; I was eager to figure out how to do it differently the next time.
If mistakes aren’t failure, then what is? I thought about that this morning as I mucked out the chicken house in the rapidly heating, humid morning. I know I’ve had the miserable experience of “feeling like a failure”, but what had caused that awful ache?
And then it came to me: the only way to fail is to do nothing. I hadn’t been trying something new when I felt like a failure—I’d been sitting on my derriere watching others collect wisdom by goofing things up.