Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

“To get good, it’s helpful to be willing, or even enthusiastic, about being bad. Baby steps are the royal road to skill.”

Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code

I love to read non-fiction books, my favorite being books about the brain and how it functions. Weird, I know, but fascinating nonetheless.

Earlier this year, I read The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle. It is one of my most recent favorites, for a zillion and two reasons. The essence of the book is that talent isn’t born, it’s grown. And in the growth process, there is lots and lots of failure. If we want to be good at something, the author states, we must be willing to fail. Only in failure is greatness possible.

I have thought long and hard about this and I have discussed it endlessly with my kids, as it pertains to so many areas in life.

It is so easy for us to have the desire to be good at something, only to throw up our hands when it isn’t as easy as it looks or because we aren’t as good as “so and so.” However, with persevernce and a lot of mistakes, we can and will get better.

I’m thankful for this in so many ways, one of which is my photography. I was looking back at photos from 2008, a time when I thought I was soooo talented. And oh dear, the truth is: I was bad. And yet, eight years later, two other things are also true:

  1. I am much better. I’m not great, and I am by no means an expert, but I am growing in my skills and abilities.
  2. Although not photographically, my photos weren’t anything special, they are still my stories and for that reason, I still love them.

I still want to grow as a photographer. Being brave to try something new, I finally attempted panning. For those of you who don’t know, “Panning is a photographic technique that combines a slow shutter speed with camera motion to create a sense of speed around a moving object. It is a way to keep your subject in focus while blurring your background.”

I’ve seen many examples of panning and I was a bit envious. I was pretty sure I couldn’t do it, and so I never tried. The chances of my photos looking like these was highly unlikely. (click photos for source)

And yet, in the spirit of willing to fail in order to get better, I gave it a shot (no pun intended). And you know what?


I’ll put my photos into three categories: Bad, better, and almost. And then two bonus photos.






As you can clearly see, I didn’t get it right. But you know what? I got better.

It was my first try, and I did it without any directions. When I try again, I’ve now read enough to know more of what settings to use and how to go about it. I am sure I will fail again, but at some point, if I keep working on it, I will succeed.

In failing, I learned two important things:

1. Failing really does make you better. “Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.” — John Wooden

2. Sometimes the worst mistakes end up being the best thing that happened:


Don’t give up. If you want to be great at something, be willing to fail.