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We’ve all heard the phrase, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailer,” but to truly embrace failure is a difficult thing to do. Why?

Because making the conscience decision to stand back from our work and admit it sucks isn’t in our nature. We fall in love with what we are doing because we wrangle our emotions, training, opinions, experience, etc. into it. It’s what makes a designer’s work unique but can also keep it from being something great.

When I began actually getting paid as a designer, failure was hard to swallow. Someone would walk by and drop a quick, “What if you did this?” and all I would hear was, “That’s terrible, do what I think.” I would always listen and accept opinions while inside wanting to lash out and defend my work. In some cases, I did lash out. We’re all highly invested in our work, and when someone calls our baby ugly, we tend to take it personally.

So how do we fix this? How do we breakthrough from “my precious” to accepting failure?

It starts at the top, by surrounding yourself with the right people. Here at Traction, we’re a relatively small shop. So it’s important that we all trust each other. When we do, we also become enlightened to the fact that we’re all on the same team. There is not a cut-throat mentality among our creative team, no in-fighting, no back stabbing to climb the ladder . What we do as designers, writers, and account executives, represents all of us. If your work isn’t good, my work isn’t good. So when someone says, “What if you did this?” it’s an open invitation to make the work we put out there better, in the name of collaboration. It is the doorway to Create Something More and more times than not, our work is better for it.

“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
– Elon Musk

When Failure Benefits You

  • Failure creates an opportunity to hold yourself accountable, by realizing your mistakes and correcting them.
  • Make failure work for you, by learning from it. Don’t be blind to your mistakes. Embrace failures, and use them to become better.
  • Come to grips with the fact that your aren’t perfect. If you were, you’d miss out on the satisfaction of getting better! We’ll call this Designlightenment. Yah? I’ll work on that…
  • Failure breeds creativity. Trial and error! I have successfully discovered 50 ways NOT to design this logo.
  • When it feels like you can’t possibly fail anymore, and you still fail, and your team is still around to pick you up, you’re in the right spot.

When Failure Hurts You

  • Repeatedly making the same mistakes and not growing from them. Don’t be a repeat offender. It’s hard on those around you. The second time is okay. The third time is okay! The twentieth time? That one’s on you. (See above, ha!)

You have my permission to fail as long as you fail hard.

The bottom line is we’re all failures. The question is, “Are you better for it or are you letting it hold you back?” It’s your choice. After all, failure is nothing more than success in waiting.