Did you fail this week? I hope so. Most people don’t like the phrase, “I failed,” I say it all the time, and I’d like you to try it out. Say it with gusto.
Say it this week.
Here’s how: Remember the acrobat.
Catapulted into the air, she turns her body with precision, tucking, twisting, and at the last second extending a pointed toe to land feet first on top of her companion’s shoulders. We expect her to stick it. She’s a pro.
But she doesn’t. Her feet miss the mark and she tumbles, and we wince.
What does failure feel like? Cringing. We curl our shoulders and turn our faces away with embarrassment. Imagine watching a video of yourself failing in front of a crowd. Ouch. We want to hide and forget about it.
But remember the acrobat.
She doesn’t wince. She knows how to take a fall and recover, so instead of sulking away, she climbs back to her launchpad and tries again.
We love that. We love it when someone comes close, fails, and tries again. We were attentive before. Now we are rapt.
And this time, when she fails again, we don’t wince. We applaud.
And she tries again and she fails again it, and we cheer.
That third attempt and failure puts us in a state of extreme focus, maybe even euphoria. When she takes her circus bow,† hands stretched high toward the third tier of seats, back arched, grin gleaming, we are totally with her, completely on her side. And we can almost hear her shout with glee, “Yay, I failed!”
So fail this coming week. In your week’s plan at least take a risk of failing. Like the acrobat, I suggest you make it an incremental failure, not a giant one. She’s practiced and nailed her launch and landing a thousand time. It’s just the extra little twist at the end she’s working on. Same with you. Do something just barely out of your reach.
Remember, flow happens at the edge of frustration.
Remember, failing at something you care about part of being fully alive, and well cheer you on when you take your circus bow and call to the third tier, “Yay, I failed!”
Remember the acrobat.
† Barbara Scott, San Francisco Improv Artist and Teacher, taught me about circus bows. You must constantly risk failure when doing improv and celebrate the risks you take with pride. We’d cheer, “I feel stupid! I screwed up! Yay, I failed!”
Last weekend I ran a workshop at the SimpleREV event in Minneapolis. We started off by learning the circus bow. Failure never looked so good!