Enjoy the Fun of Failure. At Least Try.

How to be happier.
June 26 2009 6:17 AM

Enjoy the Fun of Failure. At Least Try.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too ! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.


I’m a perfectionist. I hate to be criticized. I’m defensive. I’m thin-skinned. As a result, I really, really, hate to make a mistake or to be connected with things that aren’t perfect.

The problem is, failure and imperfection are quite common (maybe you’ve observed this yourself), and if you aren’t willing to make mistakes or to accept flaws or failure, you can’t achieve much.

Novelty and challenge bring happiness, but they also bring frustration, anxiety, flaws, and failure – in fact, the more challenging the undertaking, the more likely it is to fail or to be flawed.

I often feel myself shrinking away from opportunities or ideas, because I’m worried about doing a less-than-perfect job – even though I know that I’m happier when I create, when I push myself, when I try new things. That’s why these two resolutions are important for me.

Enjoy the fun of failure reminds me to lighten up – to accept failure or mistakes as an important part of a process. It’s okay if something fails. In fact, that’s part of the fun !

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good reminds me that it’s more important to do something at all than to do something perfectly . Many things worth doing are worth doing badly. Doing something badly is often a necessary stage toward doing it well.

For the past two days, since I announced the link to the Happiness Project Toolbox , I’ve been reminding myself of both these resolutions.

I worked so hard and so long to create the Toolbox , and the site has been tested up and down, both by the designers and also by the wonderful Super-Fans , who were hugely helpful in highlighting problems. We thought the site was working perfectly.

But guess what? It wasn’t. Within fifteen minutes of announcing the link on Wednesday morning, I got a message from a friend telling me that he’d gotten an error message. And so it went.

This upset me a lot more than it should have. In the last two days, every time I heard about a problem with the site, I felt terrible. I hate knowing that it's less than perfect. The negativity bias aggravates this feeling; lots of people have said very nice things, and when I go to the Toolbox I can see that lots of people are using the site and posting great stuff there, and yet the few criticisms – which were more like gentle, friendly notices about problems, rather than criticisms – hit me far harder. Negative is much sticker than positive.

"Enjoy the fun of failure," I keep reminding myself. It’s a great site, a lot of people love it, I love it, it’s getting fixed. "Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

It's doesn't always work, but it helps. Have you found any good strategies for helping yourself be calmer about accepting mistakes or failure?

* Gimundo has a great time-lapse video that shows beautiful settings across the world. Lots of dramatic movement by clouds and light.

* Check out the Happiness Project Toolbox . Probably it will work for you, but it's not perfect yet. If you have a problem, you can post it here . But I really, really hope that it will be practically perfect in every way within a very short time.


Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company


The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 18 2014 11:25 AM Gays on TV: From National Freakout to Modern Family Fun
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 11:48 AM Watch the Hilarious First Sketch From Season 4 of Key & Peele
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.