The Power of Failure

Summer was a busy time but as the seasons change it’s now time to reflect. One of the most powerful lessons I’ve had over the past months is the true value of failure. Don’t get me wrong, it can be frustrating, especially when something has taken days to do, to have it ruined by weather or some other factor, but so much is learned with each failure. We lost food to mold all summer from the humidity and rain, discovering the drying process really has to wait until fall when the humidity decreases. I lost rawhide and green pottery to rain leaks and humidity. We lost an underground shelter to the spring thaw and wore through moccasins that weren’t made of strong enough leather. We made candles that burned through too quickly and cooking vessels that didn’t last long. My thatched shelter proved powerless against heavy wind to keep cold and rain out.

With each failure though we learned! And we were able to learn from the mistakes of each other. These lessons then translate into many more successes! Each time we are able to make things that work better and last longer; understand what works in this environment or how things are impacted by the seasons. None of this learning is available from a book! None of these failures a waste! Pictured is my shelter which I am modifying for winter to add a debris wall and debris layer on the roof to see how that impacts its ability to keep cold and rain or snow out. It’s an experiment…which so far is proving out well! Failure fuels creativity and problem solving.

We’ve watched repeatedly in the participants who have been in our programs how pervasive the desire to get things right the first time is. We’ve watched as people become frustrated by not doing something perfectly the first time they try or ruin a project because they tried to make it a fast and easy process. Then they had a choice- either quit, which may be the norm of society- or to dig deeper and try again. It was really beautiful to watch those who persevered and the end result was so much more than their “success”. There was a real joy and sense of accomplishment, a connection with the skill, a reverence for the journey. 

Society may feel failure is a negative, but we’re learning what a blessing failure can truly be.