Yesterday I started my failure file. A failure file is a list or compilation of, well, failures in your life. This might sound masochistic, but making my failure file was actually incredibly gratifying. In a failure file you catalogue all of the projects, ideas or partnerships you have tried to accomplish, but did not work. You review why you think they did not work, what happened afterwards and what you learned from the experience. Here is an example from my failure file:
Failure: Not getting my first book, “You’re Grounded” picked up by a publisher
Lead-up: I thought I did research on what to do to get a book publisher. I packaged it with a book proposal and took it out to many different agents and publishers.
What happened: It was way more competitive in the book market than I originally thought.
How it felt: Sad, like I had a bigger mountain to climb. I felt naïve for trying. I felt embarrassed.
Lessons learned: Do more research. Never assume something will be easy. It takes work to sell. Asking for help (from publishers or publicists) early is essential. You have to have a clear selling proposition.
Lesson Applied Again: I applied all of the lessons learned trying to sell You’re Grounded! when starting my next book project. This allowed me to get signed with Penguin / Plume for my next book coming out in September! I never would have been able to get a fresh book deal had I not failed with You’re Grounded and learned from it.
Why are failure files beneficial for teens and parents? I think failure files are good for everyone. The reason for this is because when we fail, it is in our human nature to try to forget about the sad, bad, embarrassed, vulnerable feelings that come with defeat. Yet, when we push back our feelings and do not review our failures we cannot work through them and learn from them. I now recommend to all my teen audiences to look at their failures as lessons and get in the habit of examining them.
I highly recommend doing this activity with yourself and possibly your spouse or children. It can be a little rough going, so be gentle with yourself but this is a great lesson to teach your teens–do not fear failure, failure is how we get to success.