Sunday, July 3, 2016

Failure is always an option

As Adam Savage notably said many times on Mythbusters, "Failure is always an option". In fact, he talks in-depth about the importance of failure in his excellent 2016 Maker Faire talk... I highly recommend you give it a listen.

From early grade school through high school I took the 'honors classes' track through school. I mostly enjoyed it, but as we approached our senior year, it became something of a pressure cooker for everyone to 'live up to their potential' and get into a good university and go on to save the world as we had grown up expecting we would do. Or, yanno, move to Seattle and have Eddie Vedder fall madly in love with you. Hey, gimme a break... it was the 90's. ;)

In all that time, however, the one thing we were never taught was how to fail. Failure was the enemy... failure was unacceptable... failure meant we just weren't applying ourselves hard enough to the problem! Looking back now... if there were one thing I could go back and tell my younger self, aside from "Dear god, do NOT get that perm!", it would be simply that it is ok to fail. Failure will be, by and large, the one thing you learn from the most... it is ok to fail. Fail as many times as you need to, just make sure you learn from those failures.

Even now I have a hard time when I try something new and do not succeed at it. Which is crazy if you think about it... how can you expect to do something perfectly that you've never done before? But still, that little high school honors student voice in the back of my head laughs at me when I don't get something right the first time. But luckily, my adult voice has slowly learned to drown out that other voice as I remind myself repeatedly that it's ok to fail.

Case in point, the travel bag I made last summer. It was a first attempt and while it turned out fairly well, I made a poor choice for some of the stitching on the handles, using an invisible thread that snapped under the weight of the bag. It has been kicking around my workroom ever since... the repairs are not difficult, but getting to them requires taking the bag apart and redoing it. Considering I have another travel bag that I prefer using anyway, and I have certainly learned my lesson about using invisible thread, I am comfortable with calling this one a failure.

Some days, all you can do is salvage the hardware and move on to another project. Perhaps these will be reincarnated into a new purse, instead :)


  1. What a great post Steph! I design training for a living - I know that failing is how you learn. And yet, I HATE when I mess up on something I'm trying for the first time.

    1. It's a surprisingly difficult thing to unlearn! I had some great teachers when I was younger, but I wish at least one of them had taught me this!!