The Keys to Failure


What if we told you there is a key (or cycle) to failure? And what if we told you there was a way to unlock your potential and see failure as an opportunity for success in everything you do? We believe there is a failsafe way (pardon the pun) to progress through stages of self discovery to tap into a failure, shifting it to better understand our learning process. For us, this starts with the concept of Vulnerability.

Vulnerability

When you think about the meaning of being vulnerable it is no wonder as to why we as human beings avoid it as an experience. To be vulnerable means to be open to attack and criticism, or to be susceptible to being hurt or wounded. As a general reaction for survival, we avoid painful experiences. However, thanks to the work from scholars like Dr. Brene Brown, we are coming to understand the importance behind embracing vulnerability and welcoming it into our lives. Now, to be vulnerable is more akin to being open, receptive, and adaptable. While still scary, it is no longer viewed as a weakness but rather a courageous step in connecting with others.


Creativity

Vulnerability unlocks creativity. Think about a time when felt at your most creative; what did your environment look like? Chances are it was during a bit of down time. Some scientists believe we are at our most creative when we are experiencing boredom. Or at least, not as “busy” as we all claim to be. To actually have free time in our day rather than running from meeting to event to class to meeting. To be bored also means to be vulnerable. Often instead of sitting in those moments we whip out our smartphones to resolve those feelings as quickly as possible. To be alone with our thoughts is an exercise in vulnerability, but it is also when we best tap into our creativity.


Passion (Innovation)

Creativity ignites passion. Creative thoughts can be an open door to our subconscious. Our subconscious is a place of unspoken ideas, wants, needs, and passions. These very thoughts may go unspoken because we are afraid of rejection or failure. But think back to a time when you were encouraged to be creative. Think about how much energy and enthusiasm you had for your ideas. That spark of creativity ignites the passion for innovative thoughts and ideas.


Failure

Not every creative idea ends in success. When we invite passion, we invite failure. However, they do not have to be mutually exclusive. People who pursue their passions do so relentlessly. Passion pursuits are about the journey, and these paths include points of failure. Think of a goal you recently accomplished, as you took steps toward that end result did everything go perfectly? Were there times of setback or frustration? Did you question why you kept going? That little voice inside your head that encourages you to try just one more time was driven by your passion. You will try things you are passionate about. And you will fail at some of them. The point is that you tried at all.


Learning

Picture the process of change as an upward winding path that looks like a spring or a cyclone. As you travel upward on your path, you will have points of failure and with each point of failure comes an opportunity to learn. While it may feel like a set-back each time, when you look at the overall path you can see how far you have actually traveled. Good leaders will promote experimentation, it is through these experiences that you can recognize and analyze what can go wrong. Each failure is actually the process of learning. Learning unlocks Vulnerability (completing the cycle / unlocking all the keys) When you consider the process of learning as taking misteps until you find the right one, you must employ the use of vulnerability. You have to be open to being wrong, or at the very least recognize that there may be a better way. When people try new things rarely do they get it perfect the first time. Learning something new takes practice and that practice can be a continual lesson in being vulnerable.


Safety

Central to this process is the importance of psychological safety. Psychological safety is the belief that you will not be punished for making a mistake. It is important in teamwork and individual processing. Studies have shown that psychological safety promotes creative thought moderate risk taking, and sharing of opinions. This occurs when people have supportive and trusting relationships. Who do you consider to be a member of your safety net? These are the people that you are comfortable in showing your true self to, without fear of negative consequences. They cheer for you and challenge you and they are an important role in creating change for yourself.


Conclusion

Too often we stop our journey before we start. We make up excuses on why we shouldn’t try a new way of doing something. We look at our calendar of events and just do the same thing as last year because we avoid failure or don’t want to take the risk to try something different. Or worse, we have ideas for improving events and meetings, but we’re afraid others won’t support us or we we fail in the long run. In short, we get stuck somewhere along the cycle. Fraternities and sororities, while grounded in tradition, have continued to thrive because we do not settle for what was always done. We adapt, we change, and we shift how we operate to move with the changing landscape of higher education. As leaders in our fraternal movement, the question for you is: Are you willing to fail if it means unlocking your community’s potential?

 

To help you here are some questions to consider for each step in the process. We encourage you to discuss these questions with the members of your organization/council.

Safety: How can you make sure you members feel safe enough to try something new? What is needed to create an environment where members/chapters feel safe to voice their thoughts?

Vulnerability: What does vulnerability look like in your organization/council? How can you build trust among members to encourage vulnerable moments?

Creativity: What are small ways that you incorporate creativity into your life (think about your hobbies, interests, etc.)? When during your day can you be alone with your thoughts (showering, waiting in a line, driving, walking to class, etc.)? What are some ways that you could encourage creative moments in your organization/council?

Passionate: When are members most passionate? What are some of the things that block passion in your organization/council? How might you address those blockers?

Failure: How can you create an environment in your organization/council where failure is part of the learning process? Who can support your organization/council in times of failure to create educational moments?

Learning: How can you incorporate celebratory moments in to the learning process for your organization/council? What are some areas in running your organization/council that could be considered learning moments?


References
Vulnerability:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2013/04/21/brene-brown-how-vulnerability-can-make-our-lives-better/#650eff3e36c7
Creativity and link to boredom:
https://www.wired.com/2017/01/clive-thompson-7
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/make-time-for-boredom/524514
Creativity and Innovation:
https://www.creativityatwork.com/2014/02/17/what-is-creativity
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ronald-alexander-phd/inner-creativity-passion_b_853562.html
Failure and Learning:
https://hbr.org/2011/04/strategies-for-learning-from-failure
Psychological Safety:
http://news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/223235/create-culture-psychological-safety.aspx
https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it

_____

Dr. Kate Steiner
katedsteiner@gmail.com, @drkatesteiner
Dan Faill
faill@campuspeak.com, @danfaill

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