It’s nearly impossible learn skills without failing some of the time. In this episode Dr. Amy Climer examines the connection between learning and failing. She shares some stories from her own life and how she was able to use failure, mistakes, and mess-ups to further her learning and her creativity.

What You’ll Learn

  • How failure is inevitable in the learning and creative process
  • The importance of transferable skills


Weekly Challenge

What is one thing you’re working on improving? What is one thing you can do to progress toward developing that skill? Write it down then try it. Next, reflect on how that went. How do you react when you succeed, when you fail, when things don’t go quite as planned?


Feel like reading instead of listening? Download the free transcript or read it below. Enjoy!

Transcript for Episode #093: The Connection Between Learning and Failing

Amy Climer: Welcome to The Deliberate Creative Podcast Episode 93. Today’s episode is about the connection between learning and failing. I actually want to start the episode off by sharing a win. It might seem a little odd to share a success at the beginning of an episode about failing, but this particular success has a lot to do with you and the other thousands of listeners of The Deliberate Creative podcast.

With the launch of this episode, Episode 93, The Deliberate Creative podcast will reach 75,000 downloads! You all, I am just beside myself. I am so excited and amazed and incredibly thankful. I have learned quite a bit about the fear of failing with the launch of this podcast. My first episode I re-recorded, at least, five times. Plus, after that fifth recording, I still did quite a bit of editing. I took out all the ums and the breaths and the pauses and I just tried to make it as polished as I could because I thought that is what made for a really good podcast. One of the things I have learned over the last 93 episodes is that actually, what makes a good podcast is just being real and being yourself. Not that that is the only thing, but that is a big piece of it.

I also, over time, got better on the mic. I got more comfortable with it and it felt more natural to me. Whereas, initially, it felt very awkward and unusual and I could not quite get it right, if there was a right way. But I have got more comfortable over time. It has made me realize or I should say it has reminded me about this connection between learning and failing and that the more we do something, generally, the better we get at it, if we are doing a little bit of reflection and we are looking at what are the mistakes we made, how do we get better at that, how do we move forward.

This podcast has led to a lot of learning for me and hopefully it has also led to a lot of learning for you and that you have learned more about creativity and teams and leadership. But to me, the coolest part about the fact that this podcast has been downloaded 75,000 times is that that means there are thousands of people out there who want to learn more about being creative and helping their team be more creative and more innovative. This idea of deliberate creativity resonates with so many people. That just gets me so excited because imagine what the world would be like if we all could live to our full creative potential. I believe we have the capacity on this planet to solve every problem on this planet. But we have to be willing to be creative. We have to understand how creativity works. That is what gets me really excited so thank you so much for being a listener of this podcast. Thank you for being one of the people who are trying to spread creativity in the world.

If you are a listener and you have not yet left a review on iTunes or Google Play, that is one of the ways you can say “thank you.” Please head over there if you can. Go over to iTunes or Google Play and just leave a quick review of The Deliberate Creative. That would mean a lot to me. And thank you to the many, many people who have already done that.

Let’s talk more about this connection between learning and failing. I have been thinking a lot about this lately and I want to share with you some of my experiences and what I have learned lately. One of the things that these recent learnings and failings have brought up is that I remember as a kid I could not quite figure out how to learn the things I wanted to learn. And that has really been coming back to me lately.

Here is an example. There was a period where I was kind of into skateboarding and I really wanted to learn how to Ollie my skateboard, which is where you are running along a flat surface like a sidewalk and then you hop over something with your skateboard. This could be like you hop up to a bench or like over a step, but honestly, I wanted just to be able to hop over an acorn. I just could not figure out how to do it though.

Fortunately, I got to go to the library quite frequently, about every two to four weeks it seemed like we went to the library. And every time we would go to the library, I would get all the books I could about whatever topic I was interested in. I would get all the books on skateboarding, which even though we lived in a city, I grew up in Orlando, the library was reasonably big, that was probably a total of five books; maybe three in the kids department and two in the adult section.

I would check out all these books and learning a skill like that from a book is not very helpful. I never could figure out how to learn to Ollie my skateboard. The thing is there was no one around that I could talk to or learn this from. There was a kid down the street and he knew how to Ollie a skateboard, but you know what, he did not want to teach me. He spent 20 minutes here or there, but I was not picking it up that quick so he gave up, which honestly, I do not blame him. No one I knew beside that. It is not like anyone in my family knew how to do this. I did not have any older siblings that had learned this already.

But today, things are completely different. Anything you want to learn it is so accessible. You can find a YouTube video about it, you can listen to a podcast episode, and if you cannot find any resources online, you can find someone who knows this and send them an email or send them a message on Twitter and say, “Hey, I’m really curious to talk to you about this. Can we set up a time?” Chances are, unless they are some huge celebrity, they are probably going to say yes. People have become so much more accessible than they used to be just because of the internet. Not because of our personalities or our willingness, but because of the internet we are so much more connected and it is so much easier to learn things.

How Failure is Inevitable in the Learning and Creative Process [00:07:18]

Lately, I have been really getting into the home improvement projects. About nine, ten months ago, my wife and I bought a house. It is a 1968 ranch and as you can imagine, a house that is 50 years old there is some work to be done, but I kind of enjoy it. I really like focusing on the weekend on doing some repairs around the house. I love the tangible nature of it because the work I do, teaching people to be creative, is not always that tangible. Sometimes I get to see the results and see that in action, but sometimes I do not see the physical end result. So these home improvement projects, I just love that. That I get to see the progress right there.

But the challenge is I am not trained. I do not know anything about this stuff and so it involves a lot of failure and a lot of mistakes and annoying trips to the hardware store because I did not quite fully understand something about the project and now I have to go back for one more tool or one more part that I did not understand at first. In the last month, I have replaced the toilet in our bathroom, I have hung a door and this weekend I fixed a lawnmower that I broke.

That was probably the most frustrating part was the fact that I broke the lawnmower and it is pretty much brand new, but I put some bad gas in it and it would not start, and then we made the even bigger mistake of turning the lawnmower completely upside down. In case you do not know, you should never, ever, ever turn your lawnmower upside down. This is a very bad idea because what happens is the oil and gas gets into different parts of the engine that it should not be in and then the whole thing will not start, even with fresh, clean gas.

Here we are, have this relatively new lawnmower that is broken due to, really, my mistake, and I had to figure out what to do. Do we take this to a shop and get it repaired? Probably it would cost about $100. Considering the time of year, it would probably take a week or two. Meanwhile, our grass is knee-high and getting quite thick and we really need to mow it. I decide no, I am going to figure this out. I am going to figure out how to fix this lawnmower. Multiple YouTube videos, reading forums and blogs, and I finally figure out I need to clean the carburetor.

On Sunday, after three or maybe four trips to the hardware store, I finally had everything I need and I was able to clean the carburetor. And actually, that was kind of cool. The thing is it is not that hard. The whole thing actually took about 30 minutes when I actually sat down with everything I needed and went to do it, but it was that learning process that actually was kind of painful. Really, going to the hardware store three times on a Sunday I do not find that very fun. Once is fun. And just the trying something and failing and like shoot, that was not it, that did not work, it did not help, that was really frustrating.

The Importance of Transferable Skills [00:10:41]

Many times, the way you learn something is by messing up or trying something and it does not work. You might think gosh, that was a wasted day that you spent all that time trying to clean this lawnmower when you could have paid someone 100 bucks to fix it. True, but now I know how to clean a carburetor and now I know how to take a carburetor apart and that may come in handy not just for my lawnmower, but for other things. I think those transferable skills are something that is very valuable in life.

But this podcast is not about home repair projects, this is about creativity and leadership and helping your teams be as successful and amazing as they can. Here is the point. If you want to get better at whatever it is you are doing, you have to be willing to make some mistakes and experience some failures and then pick yourself up and keep going. That was something I was reminded of over the weekend when I was hanging out with this lawnmower is I was thinking about the emotional intelligence that it requires to do these kind of projects.

I definitely got frustrated, I recognized that I was frustrated and I was able to realize this is part of the process. This is how it goes. I did not get really upset, I just was like, “All right, I got to go back to the hardware store. Let me put a podcast on and put my ear buds in and walk around the hardware store and get what I need, and at least, I am listening to a cool podcast.” That was my approach and how I was able to make it through these frustrations. I think the key here is to figure out whatever it is you are trying to learn how are you going to handle the mistakes and the failures and how are you going to not get worked up and overly frustrated.

What is it that you are trying to get better at? I want you to think about something in your life that you are trying to get better at. Maybe it is trying to help your team be more creative together. Maybe it is leading more successful team meetings. Maybe it is being more open to feedback. Maybe it is giving more feedback and giving more positive feedback to your colleagues and the employees that you work with. Whatever it is that you are trying to get good at, I want you to identify that and think about what happens when you try? What happens when you make some progress? What happens when you make a mistake? What is your reaction?

Let’s say you are trying to be more creative in your team meetings and so you try a technique, perhaps something you have learned on this podcast and it goes okay. You did not think people were incredibly creative or you did not think people were really, really into it, it was okay. Let’s say mediocre. Well, why? Why was it only okay? First of all, what made it better? What made it not be a complete disaster, but then why was it not amazing? Was this something about the way you facilitated it, the way you presented it? Did it have something to do with how people were prepared ahead of time? Did they know this was coming? Were they open to it? Did this have to do with what was happening within a team, perhaps some issues that were going on that you were not really thinking about at the moment? Why was this not as successful as it could have been? What could you do to make it different? I think the key is trying again.

So often, many, many times I have seen leaders that they do something, like they initiate an activity in a meeting and it does not go so well and they think, “Forget it. We’re done. We’re not doing that type of thing anymore.” I once had a client who came to me – this was years ago – and they wanted me to lead a team building day with them. They wanted it to be kind of fun and light, but they were like, “You cannot use balls. Do not use any balls of any kind. We do not like balls.” I am like, “What do you mean?” They are like, “No, any activity with balls we’re not going to like it.”

I just thought it was so bizarre that they had honed in on this one prop, this one thing and they decided they did not like it. It was because they had had some experiences in the past with an activity or two that involved throwing some balls around and they just decided that is it. We are done with all balls. Do not be that person. That is ridiculous.

Figuring out, instead, what was it about those activities or that situation that did not make it so great. It probably was not that it involved a beach ball or a bouncy ball or a ping pong ball, that was not it. There was something else. Something much deeper and more important. So figure out what that is.

Weekly Challenge [00:15:31]

That is your weekly challenge: what is one thing you are working on improving? Figure that out and then identify one thing you can try this week to progress towards that skill. Then, analyze what went well and what did not go well. If it went really well, awesome! And then do something else. Try something else.

The point is to do something that may be a little hard or does not work so well and see what happens. Can you develop that resilience to push through the mistake or the failure and learn from it and get better? I really believe that it is near impossible to learn anything of significance if you are not willing to fail. If you are not willing to make mistakes.

I have two coaching clients right now that I have been working with who are both trying to learn from some past mistakes that they have made and trying to figure out, really identify what were those mistakes and then figure out how do I not repeat them again. I just think that is so awesome, that they are taking the time to work through that and get better. They are going to become better leaders because of that.

I mentioned mentoring and coaching and I just wanted to add that if you are interested in that, this is something I have been doing more and more of, send me an email. The email address is Shoot me an email, we can set up a time to chat on the phone and see if it might be a good fit. Mostly, what I do is executive coaching, that type of coaching. Really helping people be better leaders, team members and be more creative. I am not a life coach. It is really focused more around the work that you are doing and helping you be more creative in that regard.

It is kind of a combination of coaching and mentoring. Meaning that there will be times where maybe I am more in a teaching role and I am mentoring and teaching you, and then times where I play more of a coaching role where it is listening and asking questions and talking through things together. Kind of just depends on what you are looking for. But if that interests you, shoot me an email and we will set up a time to talk.

You all, thank you so much for listening to The Deliberate Creative podcast. I hope this was helpful. I will put some resources for you in the shownotes, and you can find those at If you have not already, do not forget to head over to iTunes or Google Play and leave a review. I would love to get that feedback from you. Thank you, thank you for being one of the 75,000 downloads. That is so awesome.

You all are awesome. Thank you for listening and for being a part of this amazing world of trying to make things creative. Have a wonderful week. Bye, you all.  

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