Teaching to fail

Afriend of ours bought a lovely book for our daughter last week, “Rosie Revere, Engineer” is a great little story about a little girl who loves to tinker and build gadgets, she gets knocked down by an uncle who laughs, meets an Auntie who fixed planes and rediscovers her love for making things.  It had both the Bee (for those of you who may be new here that’s the Mrs.) and me choked up a fair bit as it reminded us both of our past failures and how we struggled to move on.


Around the same time, I came across the story of Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, in Tony Robbins book on Money.  Sara talks about how her father encouraged her to fail, how every day she was asked, “What did you fail at today?” and how that lead to her lack of concern about failing.


There are so many other cliches and stories about how failing is good, but the truth is that failing can also really negatively impact a person’s psyche, trust me, I know.  So, as a parent, a partner, a mentor and a professional, how do I minimize the effect failure can have?


The truth is I don’t really know.  My guess is that failing a lot helps you understand how to fail better, how to fail and move on faster.  Having a family to support definitely meant that I couldn’t afford to wallow in my sorrow for too long.  I had to move on to the next thing.  But being asked in every interview or by every friend about the failure had it’s effect.  It wasn’t easy.


So, how do you get over failure, well, talking about it has definitely helped as well, whether with the Bee or with friends, or with other entrepreneurs and helping them avoid some of the trappings I wasn’t able to avoid.  Though my experience over the last year has shown me that the best way to get over failure is to try again, getting into the process all over again, working through what went wrong and coming out the other end with more success, hopefully, that’s the best way to get over the negative effect of failing.


I’m glad that my daughter’s never heard me talk about Humpty Dumpty, no one should be unable to be put back together after a fall, but she’ll definitely hear me talk more about Rosie Revere, Engineer.


  • OJ

    In my opinion, failure is overrated. I pity the poor girl who kept getting asked “what have you failed at today” – can you imagine her self-confidence after being asked this question each day. What I try and do for my little girl is ask her “what new thing have you tried today”? The idea is to encourage her to try stuff out without the fear of failing – in fact I even tell her that its okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them – its the learning from each mistake that makes your better rather than the making of the mistake itself.

    Success too is overrated but is marginally better for self-esteem!

    Nice read though – keep writing!

  • shireenbee

    You are back! Well done – writing is the best therapy! Wasn’t that book gorgeous? It affected me because of the whole being brave enough to try (I wish I was braver!) and I want our daughter to have the resiliency that I don’t, but it also made me emotional to think of all that women have done in history that we need to remind our daughters. They are standing on the shoulders of great women inventors, engineers, artists and yes, entrepreneurs!

  • Liza

    Absolutely loved this post and it hit home for me…especially during this past year. The choices we make, risks we take, even what we may think are failures on our part, are actually stepping stones to the next road ahead! I have learned and am still learning to accept the choices I make open other doors…and it’s also the way we look at things. Failing is not always a negative. It gives us other paths, new adventures, and most importantly helps us to grow! Thank you Farhan for sharing this post. It was inspiring and made my day :)

  • http://farhanlalji.fiftybyfifty.com/ Farhan Lalji

    Disagree. It’s all in the tone. Obviously Sara Blakey didn’t suffer from a negative self image from that interaction, she had a great relationship with her dad and credits him with the wherewithal to keep going and build Spanx into a killer brand. The idea is that you fail with a prototype, you try again. You fail at an assignment you do it again. A mistake is a detour, a failure is starting over.

  • http://farhanlalji.fiftybyfifty.com/ Farhan Lalji

    Cheers Liza! It’s definitely about perspective.

  • http://farhanlalji.fiftybyfifty.com/ Farhan Lalji

    Writing is definitely the best therapy. And I think you’re pretty resilient but also it’s never too late to work on resiliency :)