Innovation | Personal | Caitlin Cave



Let me begin by admitting that I have completed this blog post a week after its due date. Additionally, I have not completed two of the four comments required by this point in our course. You will soon see why I have admitted these faults, and why, I argue, I shouldn't be sorry about it. Warning: there is some real deep naval gazing ahead.

I'm of the belief that everybody is capable of greatness through innovation. But the question then arises, why doesn't everybody display greatness in innovation? I think there is a simple, yet wholly complicated answer: Fear of failure. Let me begin this blog post by describing where I think the fear of failure comes from, particularly for students of the academy (of which we are all members of). The fear of failure comes from a precedence of greatness and excellence - grades, in the case of the academy - and the expectations that a person will fulfill certain criteria that aligns them with excellence. What happens, though, is that we find ourselves fulfilling the criteria expected of us, and being too exhausted to reach beyond that, which is to say, we feel an expectation to reach beyond that criteria. It is this precedence that (unfortunately) becomes our demarcation for success.

You may be asking at this point, why is this bad? And in response, I'm asking myself, where do I begin to start explaining why this is bad? All of our energy is expended on fulfilling the quota, making sure that we have dotted all of our Is and crossed all of our Ts. But while we're making sure we're living up to the expectations of our program - because let's be honest here, we're apart of the academy because we have chosen to be - we're becoming further malleable to the expectations to fulfill the very requirements that keep us from experiencing innovation. We develop ulcers and complexes from simply trying to perform to the (bare minimum) expectations of our program so much so that we are paralyzed in fear to reach towards innovation, because frankly, we're going to fail. I'm starting to believe that a fear of failure is the one failure of success (deep, I know).

In an act of predictability, being afraid of failure will be the biggest fault of my life. I know this. And now, so do you. But how do I get away from the fear of failure? Maybe it's admitting to my personal faults, my failures, the things that make me fear in the first place. Is it just simply accepting my imperfection and moving on from there? Guess what: I don't know. But what I do know is that failure is just a part of the game. I will never be perfect, and as hard as this is for you to hear, neither will you. Perfection is simply a false idea we've created to keep us going, which, on one hand is imperative to moving ahead, because if we didn't believe in success through perfection we would have no reason to succeeded. But the other side of the same coin is that the idea of perfection is the crux to our personal failures, and ultimately, our inability to move ourselves forward. And the furthest thing from innovation is stagnation.

This is all very bilateral, but wisdom often is: If you haven't done a bad design, you don't know what good design is. If you haven't been poor, you can't appreciate the richness of wealth. If you've never been uncomfortable, you can never know true comfort. Etc. Etc.

In the interest of naval gazing, I will provide you, my reader, with some of my very personal insecurities.

What I am afraid of:
Being unemployable
Coming off as uneducated or stupid
Admitting failure to my parents, friends, and other family
Needing to ask for help

And it's precisely what I'm afraid of that keeps me paralyzed.

Some things I've failed at thus far:
Being a skinny bitch
Looking scary
Graduating on time
Keeping my goals at the forefront of my psyche
Charging through life without a care in the world
Attaining a command of the English language
Learning a second language
Being thought of as a genius or prodigy
Spelling prodigy correctly the first time
Graduating from the Art Center College of Design

It has taken me three months to order winter boots because I'm afraid that whatever I order will be the wrong choice, a waste of money. Careful, maybe, but I'm going to get frostbite before I ever fail at picking the right boots. Additionally, I will share some wisdom I picked up this morning on the way out the door: if you're running late, accept it, because you will inevitably fall on ice in your haste. And it is here, that I leave the subject, to be pondered personally. I don't have an answer, but I think being aware of how failure leads to innovation and the fear surrounding failure is a step in the right direction. So, I'm going to start by not being sorry this blog post was late, without being late I would have never written this particular post. So, sorry I'm not sorry.

In conclusion, embrace your failures and try not to let them affect your personal sphere devastatingly. Rather, remind yourself that the creative process requires failure and without failure, you cannot move forward.

But don't just take my word for it. Here are some links to articles that discuss the correlation of failure and innovation from a much less personal gaze:

Risk Taking - Fast Company
Threats - Bloomberg Businessweek
Slightly Unrelated - Bloomberg Businessweek


I LOVED this post. I related to it so so so much, and I'm sure we're not the only ones who do. My post was also late, and a bird told me that it's possible to change the post date and time so it looks like you posed sooner than you actually did. I'm not gonna lie I was tempted to do that. But then I thought, you know what, so what? I still wrote it, I still thought about it, and how embarrassing would it be if Marit was so on top of her game that she totally noticed that I snuck it in there? So not worth it :) I think it all boils down to exactly what you said...just accept it! Seriously, if we live our lives with our goal being to never fail, we will ALWAYS fail! Thank you for your raw honesty it was really refreshing!

goodness gracious. This blog, I love from the first word to the last word. This is probably one of the most funny and sincere post I've read on here. I wholeheartedly agree we can never find out what we are capable of doing unless you give it a try. everything starts with motivation. your quote collection is lovely. your fears are very relatable and they exist among us all. and you have not failed you just found another way that doesn't work out. I mean how much is enough nowadays. you are so much flavorful than those skinny bitches. don't worry. you will have a job. eventually. lol. jk. you may be unemployed but never unemployable. $_$ everyone has different stance on failure. it's very arbitrary. that's how we are set up to function. I've failed so many times like serious failures. but whatever, life's subject to change. if everything was constant, you wouldn't be able to write such a deep blog. I believe your post is the very last blog of this class. yet a very successful one.

p/s i'm not sure about other people but I find you very scary sometime. : )

This was a very interesting read. You are of course not alone. I think the majority of us who are graduating this semester or this year in general are very worried about not finding a job. I don't even want to talk about graduation when my parents bring it up because they're expecting that I'm already interviewing and on my way to having a job when in actuality, I'm so overwhelmed I'm still just focusing on graduating. Some days when I just don't care anymore about failure I find I do my best. I need to do that more often.

I thought this blog post was phenomenal! I really enjoyed it because i feel the same way, I too have failed at a lot of things but I'm the type of learner that I know i'll usually get it wrong the first time and out of that I'll learn to do it right or change my objectives all together to come up with something better. I wish that our academic leaders embraced failure more often! I think in this department there are a few courses that have so many guidelines and rules that I usually feel uninspired and due to that I don't create the best work I know I can! I wish we had more freedoms to go in different directions then they want us to. I think that because they don't they run the risk of not letting us discover a little bit more about ourselves or they don't let us stumble on to great inspired ideas. well all is said and done and I'm almost out of here so I'm not going to put up a stink, I do appreciate what this department has given me, a lot of friendship and mentors but I do think there are things this design department could change for future students that would greatly benefit them!

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This page contains a single entry by Cave published on December 9, 2010 12:01 PM.

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