05 September 2013

Learning From Failure?

I’m keenly interested in how people change and grow, how we learn—how ever-new ideas pop into our heads and nudge us to meaningful action.

As I think back over my forty-three years of life so far, I can point to specific instances when I can identify: “I learned _____________ at that time.”

Some of the events that proved formative were situations of failure. It has been said, “We learn more by our failures than by our successes.”

Hm. I’m not so sure about that. Though learning from my failings has played a role in my own formation, I would not go so far to say that failure has been the chief learning catalyst. I suppose what one does with failure—how one responds to failure—has more to do with learning than with the failure itself. At PlayFull, we believe the openness to learn is more formative than the “given circumstances” that provide the opportunity for learning. Think of openness as a context we create that trumps the context of failure. It is this kind of openness that enables one to laugh at oneself, to not take oneself too seriously. If we can “get over ourselves”, we can more easily learn. This attitude forms the crux of a life lived playfully.

One of my mentors, Jay Sensenig, and his wife Carolyn say this is “why smart people are sometimes the slowest learners.” If we think we already know it all, we close ourselves off to innumerable possibilities for growth and change.

Laugh at yourself now and then. It’s good for you!


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