It's easy for us to describe the lofty goal of attaining failure immunity, but getting there is another matter. Here's an exercise to help you do just that — the failure reframe. Failure is the raw material of success, and the failure frame is a process of converting that raw material into real growth. It's a simple three-step exercise:
1. Log your failures.
2. Categorize your failures.
3. Identify growth insights.
Log Your Failures: Just write down when you messed up. You can do this by looking back over the last week, the last month, the last year, or make it your All-Time Failure Hits List. Any time frame can work. If you want to build the habit of converting failures to growth, then we suggest you do this once or twice a month until you've established a new way of thinking. Failure frame is a healthy habit that leads to failure immunity.
Categorize Your Failures: It's useful to categorize failures into three types so you can more easily identify where the growth potential lies.
Screwups are just that — simple mistakes about things that you normally get right. It's not that you can't do better. You normally do these things right, so you don't really need to learn anything from this — you just screwed up. The best response here is to acknowledge you screwed up, apologize as needed, and move on.
Weaknesses are failures that happen because of one of your abiding failings. These are mistakes that you make over and over. You know the source of these failures well. They are old friends. You've probably worked on correcting them already, and have improved as far as you think you’re going to do. You try to avoid getting caught by these weaknesses, but they happen. We're not suggesting you cave in prematurely and accept mediocre performance, but we are suggesting that there isn't much upside in trying to change your stripes. It's a judgment call, of course, but some failures are just part of your makeup, and your best strategy is avoidance of the situations that prompt them instead of improvement.
Growth opportunities are the failures that didn't have to happen, or at least don't have to happen next time. The cause of these failures is identifiable, and a fix is available. We want to direct our attention here, rather than get distracted by the low return on spending much time on the other failure types.
Identify Growth Insights: Do any of the growth opportunity failures offer an invitation for a real improvement? What is there to learn here? What went wrong (the critical failure factor)? What could be done differently next time (the critical success factor)? Look for an insight to capture that could change things next time. Jot it down and put it to work. That's it — a simple reframe.— Bill Burnett, Dave Evans in Designing Your Life