Failure has gotten a bad rap. No one wants to fail and, can we blame them? Which sounds more prestigious? (1) I just got demoted at my job. (2) My boss was so happy with my performance that he announced my name during a company meeting. Well, duh! The vast majority of people are going to choose your boss announcing your great work during a company meeting.
Why? Well, it’s not because of the money. Neither person gained or lost money in the transaction. Recognition is always nice, but I think the biggest thing playing into the scenario is that none of us likes to be considered a failure. We all want to be raving successes at everything to which we put our hands. When we go to school, a failing grade is a very bag thing. When we are hired for a job, failing at a task that you’re given is a bad thing. Not being able to fix that item that your spouse needed to be fixed so you didn’t have to spend money is a bad thing. BUT what if I could give you a different perspective?
Have you ever heard of Traf-O-Data? Nope? Me neither before I started working on this article. Traf-O-Data was a company that was supposed to analyze traffic tapes so that it could recognize and process traffic patterns.
You haven’t heard of Traf-O-Date, but I bet you’ve heard of Bill Gates though. Uhuh, like him or hate him, you know that he is wildly successful at what he is doing. In 2014, his net worth was estimated at 77.5 BILLION dollars. Traf-O-Data was Bill Gates’s first company. His first company was an epic failure. He couldn’t get the concept to work and wasn’t able to get anyone to buy into it.
You may have heard of this company though. Berkshire Hathaway was a textile company. In 1962, Warren Buffett invested in the company which started to decline. He made a deal with Seabury Stanton to sell back his shares, but Stanton changed the arrangement for a lesser deal than he had originally made with Buffett. Buffett got so upset that he purchased enough stock to buy control of the company and fire Stanton. But the textile company continued to decline. Buffett finally shuttered the textile portion of the company 20 years later and called it a “200 Billion dollar mistake.”
Warren Buffet’s current net worth is 82.4 billion dollars!
If anyone today called Aretha Franklin a failure, they would meet with a lot of resistance, and rightfully so! Arethra held the record for Billboard Hot 100 Singles for 40 years! She won 8 consecutive grammy awards with 17 awards overall and was the first woman inducted into the Rock-n-Roll hall of fame! She has a degree from both Harvard and Yale – but get this. Franklin was a failure at high school. She dropped out of high school at 15 years old. But just because she failed at high school, doesn’t make her a failure.
Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” In doing some background research for this article, I found that one of only two Trillion (yes, you read that right, “trillion” with a “T”) dollar companies has recently said that they expect multi-“B”illion dollar failures this year. Because if they aren’t failing epically, they aren’t trying enough to push the envelope. Pretty amazing.
Why is the time to fail – NOW? There are several reasons for this.
Have you ever lived solely off of your garden? Probably not. Why because you didn’t have to.
Something in me is really pushing me to do what I can to garden this next year in such a way that I try to provide my family with as much produce as possible. I can’t tell you what within me is making me feel like this is a change that needs to happen, but it’s really important to me. The thing is that I know that I’m going to “fail” by all standards of putting enough food by to last a year, but believe it or not, that’s okay. By working on this and trying to grow enough food for my family, I will do so much more than I do when I casually garden.
This year, we got more produce from our garden than we ever have before, and while that sounds great, it’s not saying much. We got a handful of tomatoes a few strawberries, and a lot of a couple of herbs, but that was pretty much it. The squirrels and rabbits got most of the rest. It was rather disheartening! It was a failure, but in that failure, I’m learning!
I’ve learned that my garden soil is too compact and that I need to remove some and add a whole lot of compost. This will help improve my yields. I’ve learned that I need to have some kind of a critter barrier. Yes, squirrels will probably still get into the garden since they can climb just about anything that is created. I’ve learned that my herbs need to go in a much more sunny spot, and I’ve got a spot scoped out for next year that we’re going to build up for herbs. I’ve also learned that I need more than three 8’x4′ raised beds to make a dent in what my family eats.
Ugh! This just takes time! We now have eight water storage barrels – which is AWESOME, but we have yet to set up a water storage system to use them! Because there are seven people in our nuclear family and nine of us within walking distance, a system that can hold 420 gallons of water may sound impressive, but that’s less than 1 gallon of water per person per day for two months. We need that water, but this is a pretty involved project, and we haven’t taken the time to do it, and now we’re moving into winter when we really can’t do it! Talk about failure, but this is getting us ready to tackle this next year, as we’ve started doing research so that I can purchase the correct items to make this happen.
Even when we set up a water storage system, we WILL make mistakes. The thing is that it is GOOD. We will make mistakes when we can run to the store to get the right items to correct and fix those mistakes. If we wait until TEOTWAWKI to set it up and we make mistakes, we won’t have a store just down the road to help us correct problems.
We haven’t even gotten to animals yet for us to fail at – unless you count our dog. Have you had animals that you’ve brought onto your property for the purpose of providing for your family? Have you failed at it? Did you lose chickens to predators? Did one of your animals get out and kill a different animal? Sometimes fences fail. Other times you just didn’t know how to properly install something your animals needed. Have you failed at raising farm animals? Now is the time to make these mistakes and fail so that down the road, you will know so much better what you’re doing and how to handle problems that you don’t know how to NOW.
Is there a really big project that you are wanting to tackle, but you aren’t sure that it’s going to work? Try it now! Let’s say that you are wanting to install a few solar panels yourself, but you know that it’s going to take a lot of time and effort and you don’t have a ton of know-how. The thing is that you save a bunch of money doing it yourself and this could have a serious pay-off for you if times get tough. Who cares if you don’t get it right the first time? You learn more and more about how to set up solar panels as you try and fail.
Taking big chances now could look like anything from building your own house or cabin, to rebuilding a car that would be perfect for bugging out, to transforming your suburban yard into a food forest, to adding animals to your mini homestead.
Failure isn’t failing at something if you learn from your failure and forge ahead fixing the problem or problems. When failure spurs you on to try something else to conquer the problem you were having, you really haven’t failed! If you try something big and it doesn’t work, you haven’t failed! That may be the one thing that needed to happen to create a new and even better idea that will catapult you ahead in ways that you had never planned!
Don’t fear failure! As long as you are learning from what went wrong, you are always further ahead than if you had never tried something. By creating your chances and learning from your failures NOW when life is easy, you’ll be much more ready for life around you when things get hard.
But there is a time when failure is actually failing at something.
Is there a project that you’ve been putting off because its scope intimidates you? If you won’t even try, then you have failed. You can’t learn anything from a project that you won’t even attempt to do. And there are different reasons for not trying – not having the time is one of them. With our water storage system, not having the time has kept us from getting the system set up. At this moment, that is a failure because we haven’t even started working on getting the system ready.
Maybe your project is building a chicken coop so that you can keep chickens in your backyard, but you won’t start the project because it looks HARD. That is a failure NOW, but it doesn’t have to remain your failure. Decide that you’re going to build the silly coop, no matter how many times you fail at it before it comes out the way it’s supposed to. If you ever have to build another coop, you’ll be much more ready to tackle it! You’ve got this!
I could have looked at this year’s garden, and while knowing that it is a failure, I could decide there’s nothing I can do to make it better. As a result of this, I could make a corollary decision that I’ll just do the same thing next year and hope for better results. Albert Einstein has said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” I’m going to suggest that it is also the definition of failure.
Instead of saying, “Well, I can’t make my garden better,” I have specific thoughts on what I’m going to do to improve my garden for next year. I plan on removing 1/4-1/8 of the dirt in each raised bed and replacing it with compost. I plan on installing removable panels around the raised beds. These panels will do a better job of keeping the critters out of the garden. Next year’s plan is to move the herb garden to a better location.
If I make these changes, will next year’s garden feed my family for the entire year? Nope! I know that up front, but I still consider it a win. Why? Because next year’s garden will almost certainly be better than this year’s garden. Perhaps I will be able to feed my family for a month on what we grow in the garden. That would be a huge win compared to this year. I will be able to make further improvements for the following year and continue to grow in my skills and abilities.
I don’t know that I’ve ever told you the store of how I learned to knit. I had a dear friend who was willing to patiently teach me how to knit. Oh, I was so bad at it. I tried and failed. I tried, and I failed over and over. Finally, I put the knitting aside because I wasn’t succeeding.
Several years later, I attempted to pick up knitting again. I tried and failed. I tried, and I failed yet again and again. There came a point that I gave up thinking I would ever really learn to knit. That was failing.
Even a few more years later, my mother learned a different way to holding the knitting needles – holding it more like a crochet hook. I have been crocheting for years. Once she taught me, I took to knitting like a fish to water. Not only am I able to knit, but I’ve knit socks, afghans, and dishcloths. I’ve learned to do decorative stitches in knitting. I’ve learned how to work with multiple colors of yarn. But if I had never picked up knitting again after either my first or second attempts, it would have been a failure.
What have you actually failed at, but now you’re going to go back and pick it up again? Is there something you plan on failing next year so that you’re even better at it than you are now? Like me striving to feed my family from my garden for a year but knowing that I won’t succeed? What projects have you failed at because they intimidate you and you don’t want even to attempt them? Share your success and struggles with us below so that we can all be better prepared!
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I was having a conversation with a friend recently. She has, unbeknownst to me…
So as I’ve worked through this series – A Prepper’s First…
Failed big time at gardening! Even with a small 4 ft. X 4 ft. garden. But here’s the deal…we live in Wis. so cannot garden in the winter. I also don’t have any interest in canning fruits or vegetables. So in our case it was worth it to stock up on freeze dried & canned fruits & vegetables instead. I so admire & wish I liked to garden like so many others do, but I just don’t. The biggest & scariest thing to me was buying, filling & treating the water for our 55 gallon water barrels, but I did it! We filled 3 of them. Anyone doing this…please don’t forget to buy a Bung wrench and a pump or siphon hose to get the water out. I have found that what we dread doing is NEVER as bad or as hard as we think it will be…except gardening (lol) in my case!
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