I had a discussion with my dad this morning and the topic of failure came up. I was retelling him some things I’d mentioned in my Publisher’s Weekly interview earlier, and one thing I’d said that it’s okay for teens to fail. I decided early on in my teens that this was the time of my life to be trying new things and not worrying about what would happen if they didn’t work out. Anyway, my dad brought up an interesting point. He told me that it’s never a bad thing to “fail forward”.
“Failing forward” means messing up. It means making mistakes, or bad decisions. It allows room for error and regret. But “failing forward” is all about moving on despite our failures. There are going to be times in life when you put yourself out there and your wildest hopes don’t come true. You don’t get into an ivy-league college or publish a book or start a successful business. Your dreams don’t come true and whatever it was you wanted doesn’t work out. But you know what? You have to learn to move forward in spite of it.
Too many young people put off reaching for their dreams because they are afraid of failure. It’s embarrassing to admit defeat! No one wants to be that person that started off with such high hopes only to have a bucket of cold water poured on them a little too late in the game. But the reason why I’m writing this post isn’t to scare you into quitting on your dreams. The reason why I’m writing is to kick you in the butt and make you get out there and chase your dreams anyway!
If you’re a teenager, chances are you still have pretty long life ahead of you. There’s a time to be cautious and fearful. That’s probably when you’re past your thirties, and have to start worrying about feeding a family and providing for your children. That’s the stage of life when it starts to get complicated as you balance following your dreams with balancing reality. And it’s a stage of life that’s really far away right now.
The teen (and post-teen!) years are a time for adventure and taking chances. There really is no better time for trying out new things. If you’ve always wanted to be a professional photographer, why not try starting a photography business? Who’s going to care if you fail? Or why not write that novel or start that jewelry company? Even if nothing comes of it, you have lost nothing. I mean, you literally have nothing to lose. If that thing you want doesn’t work out, then try something else!
Don’t waste this time in your life on video games and babysitting jobs, hoping that someday in the future you’ll be able to do what you really want to. Do that thing now. Try it. You just might succeed, and find yourself the happiest kid on earth. Or you might fail. Who knows? But one thing’s for sure: Succeed or fail, at this point in your life, either one is a step in a good direction. Because it’s the direction of doing what you want to do, and finding what makes you happy. And like my dad always says: “If you can find something you enjoy doing and find a way to make money at it, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
P.S. My dad is obsessed with this video and had us all watch it a few months back. If you have time, it’s really an incredible picture of what not giving up looks like. Always push forward, even if you feel it’s impossible. And let your failures shape your successes.