Earlier this year I was able to take my youngest to Kennedy Space Center. He is fascinated with SpaceX. Elon Musk is one of his personal heros. As we explored and toured Kennedy Space Center, I realized that all the success of space exploration was grounded in failure. A lot of failure on the part of NASA.
I married into Finnish heritage. My husband is half-Finn and therefore my children are quarter-Finns. So we naturally hear a lot about their heritage. A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a unique Finnish tradition: On October 13, Finland celebrates a National Day for Failure. What? Celebrating failure? On this day, Finns are encouraged to step beyond their comfort zone, overcome fear of criticism and showcase their failures! This idea started in 2010 by university students who reasoned that if they wanted success in life they had to get over their fear of failure. The idea took strong hold that Finland adopted it into their holiday calendar.
A lot of what is celebrated in our American culture are successful things: good grades, a good paycheck, the winning touchdown or getting married. These are wonderful things—yet all of these things (and many more!) are built on many failed attempts.
Imagine if NASA gave up after the first year. It was really hard to figure out how to get man to the moon. It required a new way of thinking (and a lot of math!) to accomplish such a lofty goal, but they persisted. With each failure, they analyzed the data and tried again.
As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I often help counsel individuals and couples to try new things that are potentially scary. One thing that I love to share with my clients is this phrase: “What if you tried this as an experiment?”
This question can be a useful way of thinking when approaching a new thing you haven’t tried or something you’re attempting again. I also love it as a way to reframe what you see as a failure as just information about what has and hasn’t worked for you.
What failures have you celebrated lately?
Share them with a friend, loved one or even on social media. You’re in good company with the Finns and NASA.
What you will likely discover is that the anticipated fear is worse than the actual “fail” itself. As you push yourself to try new “experiments”, you will see over time that your comfort zone grows larger to accommodate a variety of experiences. And those experiences are what make you, uniquely you.
Jenny Elledge, LMFT
Jenny is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in couples counseling, trauma work, PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, faith transitions, mixed-faith relationships, life transitions and parenting issues. She offers both therapy and coaching services in-office and online settings for couples, families, and individuals.