Permission to fail

Permission to fail


Hugely successful entrepreneur and Spanx creator Sara Blakely was once asked about the key to her success. The answer was an unexpected but thought-provoking response - from an early age she had been encouraged to fail, and ultimately it granted her the freedom to succeed.

In an age where success is plastered across our social media accounts and news feeds, here’s a quick insight into failure, why we should embrace it and encourage our kids to relish it as well.

Some serious Spanx wisdom

Sara Blakely is no small fry in the start-up world. At the age of 27 she came up with a revolutionary way of keeping women’s soft squishy bits in check courtesy of the shapewear that is Spanx.

The venture cost Sara her life savings of $5000 but now sees her ranked as one of America’s wealthiest self-made women.

It’s no small achievement, but more profound is the insight that guides her success.

In 2013 she told CNBC that when she was growing up her father would ask the same question over dinner: "What have you failed at this week?"

"My dad growing up encouraged me and my brother to fail. The gift he was giving me is that failure is not trying versus the outcome. It's really allowed me to be much freer in trying things and spread my wings in life."

It takes a bit of getting used to

Whether it’s the epic fail you have as a parent or the minor fail you have at work, it’s unrealistic to believe that life will grant us 100 per cent success.

According to Psychology Today, it’s what you do with the experience that counts.

They note embracing failure involves:

·       Keeping it in perspective

·       Being grateful for what you have

·       Being confident in who you are and what you do well

·       Being willing to step outside your comfort zone

·       Using the opportunity to learn and grow

·       Using the experience to build resilience within

Failure as a verb

You are not a failure because you experience failure, and that’s an important lesson we need to teach our kids.

In a society where every participant gets a certificate and every effort receives an award, we need to show them the resilience required to deal with the reality of the world.

You know it, I know it, every teacher in the world knows it…if we’re not failing at least some of the time, we’re phoning it in from well within a comfort zone and not trying anything new.

It results in a life lived safely from the comfort of the sidelines, when we could be diving right in with abandon and growing long the way.

We need to take failing less seriously, venture into new territory, and if the point of failure was one of life’s defining moments, use it to inform what we do next.

So, in the words of the wise Mr Blakely and to all of you wonderful women, what have you failed at this week, and what did you learn?


Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer with 20 years’ journalism experience. She loves a good old-fashioned story and getting to the heart of a great yarn. She’s also a mum to three children who have encouraged her to hone some secret skills. Nimbly navigating Lego pieces left on her loungeroom floor and creating stylish Barbie attire from all manner of household objects are just a couple of credentials she’s recently added to her resume.

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