What kind of failure is this?

Liz Sumner Learning 1 Comment

I’m preparing for a certification course to coach the tools and framework of Designing Your Life by Dave Evans and Bill Burnett. I’m very excited because the authors are teaching it and this will be the first time they present the material from their latest book, Designing Your Work Life.

One of the tools they offer is called the Failure Log. For some of us who often spend our free time revisiting our greatest blunders, a Failure Log could be a many-paged tome. Evans and Burnett give it some categories that I find very useful. They identify three types of failure: Screw Ups, Weaknesses, and Opportunities for Growth.

Screw Up is a simple, dumb mistake. In a Zoom call the other day I thought I was muted and shouted at Michael in the other room. I saw the shocked reaction of the others on the call and realized my error. I screwed up. I won’t do it again. Nothing to learn there.

You might describe a Weakness as “that’s just the way I am.” Maybe you could improve it but you’re not really interested in working on it. (You might even pride yourself on it).

I say a lot of ums and uhs when I speak extemporaneously. Toastmasters calls them “audible pauses.” I could learn to speak without them but I’m not really motivated. The only time it really bothers me is when I hear myself recorded. For my podcast I have a workaround– I edit them out. 

Opportunity for Growth – on that same Zoom call above I presented some information and the audience found my style confusing. I would like to be a better presenter. This is definitely an opportunity for growth.

The purpose of the distinctions on the Failure Log is to help you develop “failure immunity.” As a life designer you’re going to try stuff– sometimes it’s going to work, sometimes it’s not. The point is to identify which failures you can learn from and devalue the ones that don’t matter.

Comments 1

  1. Darling Liz,

    I had to laugh when I saw your latest post. It was cogent, helpful, and relatable, in that I could see where it could be valuable. Right now, in my life, my creative capacities are reaching drought levels. Death in the family, extra visitors in the house, plans to leave for Italy, calls on gramma for a multiplicity of things, exercise, 4 hours of grading, and five hours of screen time per day leave no space for charts per se. I have been, however, making frequent effective changes to improve the online experience for my students. Since this is my last quarter teaching, it is heartening to know that I can professionally still turn on a dime to avoid a large instructional pothole left in the wake of Covid.

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