In 2002, I started a blog about dreams and dream science. It eventually failed.
In 2004, I started a blog about sports. It eventually failed.
In 2005, I started a blog about parenting. It eventually failed.
In 2006, I started a blog about personal finance. It succeeded, largely on the lessons learned from the failures.
* * *
Let’s start again.
In 1996, I started dating a girl that seemed interesting to me. It eventually failed.
In early 1997, I started dating a girl that seemed interesting to me. It eventually failed.
Later in 1997, I started dating Sarah. She eventually became my wife.
* * *
Are we seeing a theme yet?
In 1996, I went to college majoring in English. I failed and changed majors.
In 1997, I started majoring in mathematics. I failed and changed majors (though I came close to a minor in this subject).
Later in 1997, I started majoring in the life sciences. I largely felt this was a failure, too, though I did wind up eventually accumulating enough credits for a degree.
In 1999, I started majoring in computer science. I ended up graduating with this as my primary major.
* * *
Let’s try this one more time.
In 1994, I wrote a novel. When I was finished with it, I realized it was trash.
In 1997, I wrote another novel. When I was finished with it, I realized it was trash.
In 2002, I wrote another novel. I tried to get this one published. I accumulated a giant pile of rejection letters and one vague nibble. I eventually decided this novel was trash, too.
In 2005, I wrote another novel. When I was finished with it, I realized it was trash.
In 2008 and 2010, I was able to get personal finance books published.
In 2012, I’m going to give a novel another shot, from a platform of success in a similar area and a history of failure in fiction.
* * *
What do each of these stories have in common? They involve failure. Lots of failure. They involve mistakes, mis-steps, stupid moves, and mediocrity.
Yet, through repeatedly failing, I learned some things. I learned what pieces were bringing on failure as well as what pieces I was doing right.
Every time I’ve failed (at least in adulthood), I’ve tried to figure out why I’ve failed. What things did I do wrong? What things did I not account for?
One thing I did not do is blame others for my failure. That’s an incredibly easy trap to fall into because it lets you off the hook from admitting you did anything wrong. Whenever you fail, you always did something wrong. If nothing else, you relied on someone else too much, someone who let you down!
Often, when you figure out what you did wrong, you have an exact recipe for improving yourself. The mistake you made tells you what you need to do to get it right the next time.
Every single one of us has failed at something – and is going to fail at something. We’re going to overspend. We’re going to make a career mis-step. We’re going to write a novel and have no one ever want to buy it. We’re going to destroy a friendship over something silly.
The question is whether or not we’re going to learn anything from that failure.