Don’t Forget to Learn from your Failures

It’s positive spin time here at TVWriter™, gals and guys, so here are a few words that should help us all find upbeat showbiz futures in even the darkest of clouds. What better way to make ourselves feel better than this helpful – albeit slightly generic – investigation into the human condition?

despairby Art Markman

We all fail, all the time. We might miss a call with a client because of an emergency work meeting, or miss that meeting because another project has suddenly become urgent. And then we (or our families) get sick, and we have to shift priorities around again.

These unsystematic failures are benign, though. They reflect that all of us have limited resources. There simply is not enough time, energy, or money, to do everything you want to do all the time. Part of being a responsible adult is learning to make tradeoffs: balancing your conflicting goals and trying to get as much done as you can in the time you have.

Unsystematic failures can also help you calibrate the right approach to the specific tradeoff between effort and accuracy. If you fail occasionally, you’re probably hitting the right balance. If you fail too often, you’re probably not putting in enough effort. If you never fail, then chances are you are spending too much time on most of your projects, because in general, the longer you work on a project, the better it gets. By polishing a particular project to a high gloss, you’re giving yourself less time for other things that require your attention. The trick is to figure out how much effort is enough for each project, so that over time, you manage to take care of most of the things you need to do and do them well enough.

The thing you really need to watch out for is systematic failure.

Systematic failure happens when there’s a particular goal you want to achieve, but never get to.

Maybe it’s a major achievement, like writing a book or applying for a fellowship. It could be an important daily goal, like exercising or eating healthier.

No matter what it is, the causes of systematic failures usually boil down to some combination of these three factors:

Read it all at HBR