First Rule of Fail Club: We *Always* Talk About Fail Club

Matthew Oldridge
May 13 · 4 min read

Yesterday I failed at making dinner. Truly, spectacularly failed. Made a mess, dinner was ruined.

I substituted green lentils for red lentils in making dhal, when pressed for time. “No need to go buy some more red lentils. Green will be fine.” Famous (dinner) last words. Green lentils are bigger, have harder skins, and they take forever to cook. Fail. Throw it in the trash fail. Inedible fail.

The taste was too bitter, just off…three hours in the lentils stubbornly refused to break down. Dinner was a fail, and the sandwiches came out instead.

But everyone has to eat, so will one culinary fail stop me from making dinner again today? No way. Get back up, try again.

Life is one big fail sometimes. Failed job interviews. Hopes and dreams that don’t quite come true. Bitter disappointment. Yet someway, somehow, we get back up off the mat and…do it again. The alternative, just laying down, and taking it, is not good enough.

Fail forward, fail again.

There is an iterative and addictive nature to failing.

So the lentils are ruined. What next?

They were green and brown mush. Inedible, bitter, awful. What to do now?

Failing In Life and Work

Basketball players know about failing. So do baseball players. Take thousands of shots, and you make thousands of shots, but you also probably miss thousands of shots. Swing for the fences, and you often strike out (you could cut down on your swing, but that is another story.

Here are some things I have often failed at:

  • job interviews.

Many companies still have 1980s style standardized interviews in which you must say exactly the right buzzwords and phrases. I have flopped at maybe 10 of these sorts of interviews. The feedback is usually along the lines of “you didn’t say (buzzword or phrase X). In many cases, I knew what I needed to know, I just didn’t articulate it well enough.

Job interviews are my main professional area of “fail”. I have gradually overcome this toxic mix of insecurity, introversion, and inability to say the right things.

What is the solution here? Probably to have more job interviews. Honestly. Keep the bat on your shoulder, keep swinging.

  • writing.

This is a spectacular area of “fail”. If you write for publishers and publications, you will be rejected. Famous rejection letters abound. Famous authors get them framed.

Me, I have a “Fails and Rejections” email folder. I glory in it. Book proposals, article proposals- the more you write, the more you fail…and succeed.

Release your words into the world.

It is 2019. You don’t have to wait for a publisher. Write your words, and release them like helium balloons on the wind (while the world still has helium to put in balloons, that is…)

  • parenting

Parenting is an area where you have much success and much failure. But you can’t stop being a parent. You just keep doing it. If you are in a bad mood, and snap at your kids, you have to make it up to them. If you mess up, admit it. Move on, but admit it first. You will make lots of wrong moves as a parent.

  • teaching

Many teachers like to pretend they are perfect. This is true in the shiny, glossy, fake worlds of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. In reality, they too have lesson fails, fails connecting to students, or just plain saying the wrong thing.

Lesson fails are when your carefully planned lesson falls flat. This does happen. It has happened to me a few times. You learn from it. I used to dwell on it, early on. You learn from it and move on.

  • finances

Maybe you have messed up on a money issue. Probably that means you overspent, or perhaps you missed a bill due date. Money fails are difficult because money is a finite commodity. A mindset of “abundance” can help, but maybe not in putting actual bills in your hand.

Financial learning takes a lifetime. You will make mistakes. You will spend too much on some commodity or other you want. You won’t invest or save as much as you would probably like.

Money fails are among the most stressful.

  • relationship and friend fails.

I have had many friendships fall apart. Those were the times I said the wrong things, argued too hard about some triviality, or just plain disappeared. Interpersonal fails feel shameful, and are hard to overcome. Friendships can quickly form and disappear.

I am not sure what the answer is here. Probably to make more friends, be more social, and talk to more people. It’s the same principle- fail forward, learn from your mistakes, and just…keep going.

These failures used to hurt more. Now I crave them. Failing more means I am doing more.

Accelerate the fail, crave the fail, be the fail you want to see in the world.

@MatthewOldridge is a professional at “fail”. Fail often, fail forward.

Matthew Oldridge

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Writing about creativity, books, productivity, education, particularly mathematics, music, and whatever else “catches my mind”. ~Thinking about things~