Fail, Quit, Lose: The Danger In Glorifying Failure

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With guest host John Donvan

“Fail fast, fail often” goes the zeitgeist . But should we have such optimism for failure?

It can be hard to accept failure. (Flickr / Blacksheep of Omaha)
It can be hard to accept failure. (Flickr / Blacksheep of Omaha)

When you have a dream — your own business, a great marriage, a career as an artist or an athlete — and you try for the dream but don’t reach it, we call that failure. It hurts, failure. On the other hands. in places like Silicon Valley, failure is seen as good. It’s practically a fetish, where never failing suggests you’re not trying hard enough. And yet it seems only the winners preach that lesson. Are there times when giving up the dream makes the most sense? This hour On Point: failing — how we handle not getting what we want.
-- John Donvan


Peg Streep, blogger and author. Author of "Quitting: Why We Fear It And Why We Shouldn't In Life, Love and Work." Blogger for Psychology Today.

Amy Edmondson, leadership and management professor at the Harvard Business School. (@amycedmondson)

Ashley Merryman, journalist and author. Co-author of "Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing." (@ashleymerryman)

From The Reading List

Harvard Business Review: Strategies for Learning from Failure — "Most executives I’ve talked to believe that failure is bad (of course!). They also believe that learning from it is pretty straightforward: Ask people to reflect on what they did wrong and exhort them to avoid similar mistakes in the future—or, better yet, assign a team to review and write a report on what happened and then distribute it throughout the organization."

New York Times: Losing Is Good For You — "When children make mistakes, our job should not be to spin those losses into decorated victories. Instead, our job is to help kids overcome setbacks, to help them see that progress over time is more important than a particular win or loss, and to help them graciously congratulate the child who succeeded when they failed. To do that, we need to refuse all the meaningless plastic and tin destined for landfills. We have to stop letting the Trophy-Industrial Complex run our children’s lives."

Psychology Today: Does Failure Make You Stronger and More Persistent? — "Is it all about mindset and how you frame your goal?  Or is it about your personality and how well you cope with the feelings induced by failure?  Or does it have to do with your expectations about whether this setback is temporary and will ultimately yield to success?  Does failure really inspire grit? Here’s where the terrain gets a bit tricky.

This program aired on August 5, 2015.


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