Overemphasizing success makes us too risk averse.

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Do you know how to fail? We focus all the time on how to succeed, and what we should be doing, but the reality is that at least some of the time Good story tellers know this — there’s a reason characters are flawed. The prospect of waking up tomorrow and doing everything perfectly sounds nice, but you can’t learn or grow if you’re perfect. And no one is perfect, so if you feel like you are you probably aren’t taking the kinds of risks and pursuing the opportunities that are going to help you build the life you want.

You don’t have to suck at everything. You just need to pick something outside your comfort zone or skill set that you can work on doing over and over again. Video games are great for this. Game designers purposefully build in a learning curve so that you rarely get each task right the first time. Too easy and players lose interest. Too difficult and they give up. If you want to throw the controller through the television, then you might have a perfection problem.

For all the talk of participation trophies and trigger warnings, millennials and young people in general are way more practiced at failing than their elders. Not only did they grow up gaming, but a series of successive shocks (9/11, the great recession, and now COVID-19) mean that every time they got their feet underneath them, they have faced the risk of having it knocked down again. The challenges have provided too much opportunity for failure. Perhaps this is why millennials favor policies that cushion the blow when adversity strikes: tuition free college, student loan forgiveness, universal healthcare. It’s also why when this generation does enter positions of leadership, they are going to be so interesting to watch.

Ultimately, failure isn’t an indicator that you aren’t going to achieve your goals. In fact, sometimes failure is a necessary part of the process in learning to succeed. And that’s ok, because sometimes if you aren’t doing it wrong–you’re doing it wrong.

Written by

Xennial. Political news junkie. Feminist. Mom. I write about economics, technology and media. My views are my own.

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