Vol. XCI No. 16
Jan. 31, 2020
Across human history, it is in the contention that we, as a species, have failed in many of our exploits and adventures. Yes, we have come far in our pursuit of advancement, but is there more to this feeling of failure than the acute feelings of emptiness and despair? To tackle one aspect, tWS pinpoints the perception of failure as the difficult, prickly concept that we will do whatever it takes to completely avoid.
Failure is the great precedent of success, but perhaps the idea of failing is too much to live with. Two world-renowned psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who won the Nobel prize for their work, have discovered in their work that the effect of loss is twice as great as the gain from a win. The scientific basis is solid, the soul-crushing feeling of loss is a natural response. A person can ask a stranger they come across a street and they can answer, with all certainty, that they have experienced failure parallel with great. Humans in general just loathe the idea of having to hear from someone or their own thoughts that they fell short.
The high and honorable road is to take a loss in stride and to even embrace it. The acceptance and tolerance of loss is an antique concept, but people from all walks of life tend to avoid than take the chance. Jack Ma and Jeff Bezos, CEOs of Alibaba and Amazon respectively, have impressively nurtured a culture of tolerance in their own companies. In a letter to shareholders, Bezos said that “Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional. We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right.” An interview from the World Economic Forum, Jack Ma recounts his failures, such as: not getting a job in KFC, when 24 people applied and 23 got it. Or not getting a job as a server in a hotel, when his cousin did. Or not being able to get into Harvard, while he applied 10 times. He explains that all of these failures prepared him for the path he took on as a CEO.
tWS believes that failure serves as the prime motivator — it is instrumental in the progression of all that was and is. Learning to become familiar with it is key to succeeding, but never to the point that one finds indulgence in it.