MasterPo says: This blog is about topics and issues that are of importance to me. I am not one of the countless blogging lemmings that are tripping over each other scurrying down the hill and off the cliff of blogging oblivion trying to write the greatest blog on the latest topic de'jour. Your comments are welcome.

April 22, 2009

The Power of Failure – It's Not Such A Bad Thing!

Who wants to fail?

I certainly don't.

So much of our culture, our society, is based on glorifying and extolling success while impugning and shunning failure.

Surely some fields and professions have a tight margin for failure.

You don't want your doctor to fail in the operation about to be performed on you resulting in your death!

You don't want your home builder to fail and have the house you just purchased collapse on you!

And you wouldn't want your lawyer to fail least you end up in jail for something you didn't do!

We are taught as kids that our fear is nature's way of warning us that something we are about to attempt is potentially harmful and we shouldn't try it. Sometimes we listen, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we pay the price for not listening, sometimes everything comes out fine in spite of our fear and the risks.

But not everything in life has such immediate and dire consequences for failure. Yes, the results of failure can be costly in both money and time. But failure, specifically the risk (rational fear) of failure, is a good thing.

The risk of time and cost failure helps guide us, both as individuals and as a society, from going off on wasteful endeavors or flights of mere fantasy. These things still happen but the majority of people weight the risk and choose courses of action with greatly likelihoods of positive outcomes.
And there in lays the danger.

As we see now our government is moving to bail out all sorts of industries that are on the verge of failure. On a more personal level we have all kinds of social programs as "safety nets" to help people up after they fall.

Conceptually, these are pleasant ideas. But the real risk of injury from failure is a powerful motivation. Many of these businesses and individuals might not be in the bailout/safety net category if they had weighed the risks more.

But why should they?

When government is there to catch you when you fail why exercise caution at all?

If you can go off and do whatever you want and if you fail society via government will restore you to your prior good state, where is the incentive to have been cautious in the first place? Where is the motivation for doing the right thing the first time?

Risk of failure and the consequences thereof are a powerful force for driving people to think before they act, and providing good examples to others as to what not to do.

But remove that risk, provide government (i.e. society) "safety net" for everything then doing the right thing the first time becomes irrelevant.

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