I fail a lot. You should too.

I fail a lot. I fail as a teacher. I fail as a researcher. I fail as an administrator. I fail as a husband. I fail as a father. I fail as a friend. You should too.

Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson

As the saying goes, wisdom comes from experience. Experience comes from failure.

With the year coming to a close, I am thinking a great deal about how this year went and my goals for next year. I’ll detail this process over my next series of posts, but to begin I start with where I have failed this year.

This can be a cathartic process. I think about what all I failed at this year and make plans to do better in the coming year.

I set a big goal for myself this year. I wanted to write for an hour a day for 250 days.

When the year is over, I’m going to be short by about 60 days.

Wow, that’s a pretty big miss. I missed my goal by a lot.

I failed.

I failed big time.

And I’m better for it.

Writing is an ongoing process as anyone who write for a living will tell you. What did I learn from my failure?

I learned that even though my best time of the day is in the afternoon that afternoons aren’t a good time for me to write.

I learned through writing this blog to write more accessibly and for different audiences.

I learned about standing desks and how much I like writing at one.

I wrote a lot. A lot. I wrote approximately 115,000 words or 460 pages.

So while I failed at my goal, I still consider this a valuable experience. I learned a lot and I produced a heck of a lot of writing.

And that’s what is important. If we set big goals and we try new things, we’re going to fail. And we’re going to fail a lot.

What is the alternative? Not setting goals or not trying. That’s not acceptable.

The challenge when we fail is our attitude. Do we learn from the experience? Do we take away the positives? Do we commit ourselves to doing better?

Frankly, I’ve been fortunate in my life. I’ve never been unemployed. I got pretty good grades in school. I’ve been able to have some neat experiences. But I’ve also failed. I haven’t gotten the job I wanted. I don’t have the most outstanding CV. I haven’t always made the best choices in life.

Yet, I strive to learn from these experiences. I try to do what John Maxwell calls failing forward. Turn mistakes and failures into stepping stones for success.

To be clear, I fail a lot, but I am never a failure. This is a subtle but important distinction. Failing means that I didn’t meet the standard that I set for myself. Failure means I’ve given up and stopped trying.

As you think about your New Year’s resolutions that have fallen away or goals this year that didn’t work out, remember that these failures are important. They not only make you who you are, but they also make you successful if you learn from them.

So go ahead, get out there and fail today!