Lessons from the skatepark and my son on the importance of failure.

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My very-nearly-8-year-old son, Hudson, is really into skateboarding these days. In tagging along with him to skateparks, I’ve come to really marvel at a few core aspects of the whole undertaking.  For one, skateboarding is a failure sport. It goes something like this: fall, fall, fall BIG, fall again, and then maybe you FINALLY land it… before you go on and fall once more for good measure. All of this, for just for one trick. This cycle goes on and on and on — two weeks can be spent working on a single trick, a certain ramp, or just making it through a stretch of skating without a wipeout. The perseverance skateboarding requires is amazing — the ‘try try try’-ness of it all.

Then, giving color to the whole thing is a diverse group of kids and kid-like adults, a community bonded by their shared pursuit and passion. Everyone on a skateboard shares a fundamental love of trying something constantly challenging. Everyone is similarly unphased in the face of failure. I suspect that because of this, the community is unbelievably supportive. Across age, skill, and experience, they encourage each other to “drop in,” clap when someone does something amazing — and say “next time, man” when it doesn’t quite work out.  

Everyone at a skatepark is looking to make the great trick, ollie or ramp. But through that effort, they seem to have figured out that they can be great, but so too can others. It is not mutually exclusive. It’s never “when you win, I fail.” 

What a concept, right?

Of course, as a business owner, entrepreneur, manager, boss, and idealist, I can’t help but observe this behavior and wonder what if business and brands were run this way. After all, isn’t this what entrepreneurs do? Keep trying until you find one trick that works? So much of business is fail, fail, fail, fail — the most persistent, driven, dedicated sticks it.

What if we had a community like this? Do we already? Is it Silicon Valley? Silicon Beach? Ted Talks? Google? How do we create more of these types of environments and emulate this type of spirit in our businesses, communities, teams, and relationships? 

Digging in a bit deeper, here are some amazing nuggets I found:

  • “You learn much more from failure than success.”  We ALL know this, no matter how hard or annoying it is to admit. But if we really believe it, let’s walk the walk. Let’s write our own “failure resumes” to actively create the culture and leaders we want. Or check in with yourself every year as an exercise in owning your mistakes and learning from them.
  • Failure is an absolute must for growth. You can’t have one without the other. Plus, research shows that talking about failure makes for happier and more productive workers, so there’s that. Here’s how to use failure as a learning opportunity.
  • Decision paralysis. To me, this is the worst byproduct of fearing failure. It is better to be DONE, than to be held hostage in PERFECTION PARALYSIS. Words we live by at IN GOOD CO, a culture we look to create and push everyday. We expect and welcome failure as long as we are learning from it, moving on and PUSHING every day.
  • Trust the process. For a mega dose of inspiration, here’s 25 incredible women who achieved success later in life. I am pretty damn sure they learned some lessons and are all beyond proud and comfortable with their success BECAUSE of what they went through and learned from along the way.

Last week, I went with my son to the Venice Beach skatepark (confession: at the time, I may or may not have been procrastinating the writing of this article — something about the fear of failure, no doubt). About 40 minutes in, my son had a hard collision with another skater twice his size that scared the bejesus out of me. Lying on the emptied out pool floor, within moments he was being hoisted up and out of the pool by fellow skaters. After some tears, deep breaths, and a huge hug, the other kids welcomed Hudson back into the park. He dropped in, perhaps a touch more cautious than before, but still, off he went.

Fall off the bike and get back on. Off the horse and keep riding. Take a moment, lick your wounds, learn from it — but keep moving forward! It’s a simple thing, really — yet no less difficult and awe-inspiring. In the end, I suspect it’s all that falling down that makes the landing feel so very good. 

What’s your relationship with failure? Find us @instagoodcompany or on LinkedIn to continue the conversation, or keep reading and let us know what you think. IN GOOD CO is a culture-conscious brand consultancy championing passion and purpose. 

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