28 August 2008

Failure is an option

This post was originaly started in April right after Computers in Libraries (yes I'm slow, but I'm improving!) I was supposed to present to my colleagues at MPOW in 5 minutes what I learned at CIL (yeah 5 minutes for 3 days plus preconfrences) so this is what I would have talked about.

One of the themes that I picked up on at Computers in Libraries, althought maybe in not so many words, was that failure is an option.

It seems like from the time we enter elementary school, through college and into the work force, we're led to believe that failure is not an option. Or that's it a bad option. That if we fail we let down everyone who cares for us, our work place, and in some cases the world will end all because something failed. Whether it be a project, a relationship, or not hitting the winning home run. Failure is bad.

But, it isn't true. Failure is always an option. Failure doesn't mean that you didn't succeed. It's what you take away from it that matters the most. What did you learn? How did you learn? One of the most famous stories I've heard is about Thomas Edison and the lightbulb. It's said that when he was trying to invent the lightbulb he was asked about the "failures" (rumored to have been over a 1,000.) His response was "Failures? What failures? I now know 999 things that don't do what I wanted them to do. Out of these "failures" came many other inventions. Where others may have stopped, he kept going till he found what did work and along the way found uses for the other "failures."

With Library 2.0/Web 2.0 technology, there is always the chance that we're going to fail. Every idea that we have can't succede each time no matter how much we'd like that to happen. We're bound to fail. What's important though is what you take away from it. Why did it fail? What didn't work right? What could we have done differently? I think this is one of the most important things that we can ever learn from a project. We don't set out to fail, but when it happens that we make the best of it and apply what we learned to our next projects.

One of the biggest examples of "failure" I saw growing up, was Charlie Brown from Peanuts. He could neve quite kick the ball from Lucy, never won a game, and never could quite fly a kite. But, Charlie Brown had it wrong. Winning was never everything and failure is always an option. Its what you learn from it that matters.

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