Doubling My Rate of Failure

“We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation. There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure – all your life.”

– John W. Gardner


Whew!  That is a deep and powerful quote.  And I have read and re-read this quote so many times trying to embrace this thought. What is it with “fear of failure”.  It affects so many people.  It seems we don’t attempt things that are hard or out of our comfort zone so we can avoid failure.  Then we beat ourselves up because we are avoiding these perceived hard things, and simultaneously we numb any pain or discomfort that the avoidance and failure are causing.

DSCN5897How do I know all this?  I am a pro when it comes to the fear of failure.  When I started as an educator, I had to overcome the fear of failure, or I was doomed to never fulfilling my dream.  It was hard especially since I had to sub for a few years before I could find a job.  And a lot of the skills you need to be a good teacher are not always taught in college….they are on the job training.

And then as a gardener and a writer/blogger I again had to look fear in the face as I started down these new paths.  Let’s face it when you start anything new, you put your self esteem on the line because you are going to fail.  You can’t escape failure and you shouldn’t want to.

Of course when we make mistakes and fail, we can feel low, beat ourselves up, quit or we can decide not to even try.  And what a shame that would be.  But even with the fear of failure looming, I continued to teach, build my skills, make mistakes, learn, build more skills, master some, and on and on.  The same happened with gardening and writing….but I never quit.

DSCN6065Oh there were days I wanted to, but I am pig-headed stubborn.  I don’t like to throw up my hands and accept defeat.  So I dig in, figure out what went wrong, how I could do better, work hard at it and build on the successes.  But those successes would never have happened if I hadn’t failed.  Failure is one of the best teachers I have ever had.  And failure is essential for innovation.




I recently read a very interesting quote:

“The fastest way to succeed is to double your rate of failure.”

Thomas Watson


Think about it.  To succeed quickly you have to put yourself out there and try more and more…and accept failure over and over learning, growing moving slowly but surely ahead.  So I have decided to not only fail, but fail more.  In failing, I know I am learning so much that I can’t help but succeed.  So where do I plan to double my rate of failure:



The veg garden is the perfect place to guarantee failure.  Every year I add a new bed and new veggies.  No I am not successful with everything I have previously grown, but still I add more.  I have had failures of whole crops, mediocre harvests and bounties.  But if I want a variety of organic fruits and veggies, then I have to grow them as they are not readily available in my area.

I love to experiment with organic fertilizers, different seeds, soils, combinations/companion plants and oh so many other ideas.  And this year, due to limited space, I am constructing arches in a couple of beds that will grow viney veggies like pumpkins, squash and watermelons over other veggies growing in the same bed like garlic, lettuces, carrots and beets.  I have no idea if the fencing we purchased will support the veggies, but we can’t know until we try.


Adding native plants is another perfect place to fail.  There is so much to learn about your local habitat, growing conditions, finding starter plants and getting the plants to survive or not take over the entire garden that you almost feel like you are back in science class constantly having to study for pop quizzes.  Then if you want to divide or propagate your own natives, you better find, coaches, classes, books and blogs to help as this is beyond my high school biology class training.  But when it works, the garden is gorgeous.



Attracting critters to the garden can be a nightmare sometimes.  What plants do they need for food, shelter and nesting?  If I have a pond will I get frogs, toads, dragonflies, snakes, ducks, herons, songbirds and other interesting critters, and can they play together nicely?

And boy are you inviting failure when birds are nesting.  We are in the middle of mating season here and as the birds pair off, there are fights for mates, fights for nesting boxes (which may not be spaced far enough apart or facing the right way) and now 1 robin is fighting the windows of the house as she thinks she sees another robin trying to take her prime nesting spot….it has become a nightmare for her and us.  And we are learning, experimenting and failing as we try to find solutions to make us both happy.



Following the “rules” of gardening chores can be confusing.  Do I cut everything to the ground or do I leave up seedheads for critters and grasses for a stunning winter display?  And if those grasses attract voles, well you know what can happen as my recent post showed, utter destruction.  So what to do.  Every fall I experiment trying to get the perfect balance, and every spring I see the failures.


So don’t be surprised if you see more posts, a different series of ideas and new interests on the blog.  I am entering into a new phase of experimentation particularly around creativity, design and art.   Who knows where it will all lead, but I know it will first lead to more failure, and I for one am looking forward to it.  And that will be new for me.



What is your relationship with failure?  Do you fear it?  Or do you have a particular way to deal with failure?




“I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.”  ~Tony Robbins


 ****Run your cursor over the pictures to see their stories


The Giveaway

Heather was kind enough to send me a second book for the giveaway so there are 2 winners:

Thank you all for visiting and commenting.


Next up on the blog:  Next Monday will be May already.  My goodness spring is flying by and I will have a Garden Journal post.  Later next week will be time to check in with the tree I am following.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.  My most recent post is up already.  Next post is April 29th.

I can also be found blogging once a month at Vision and Verb.  I will be posting again on April 30th.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.sharethelove

I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

62 Replies to “Doubling My Rate of Failure”

  1. This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I am presenting a program tonight at our local library on propagating milkweed. Just a little nervous (ha ha). It should be fun, as I am bring my dad’s slide show from his Baldwinsville (NY) wildflower garden, seeds, dirt, plants and that little suitcase full of “what if I fail”. Now I am thinking about leaving the suitcase home and only bringing a wallet! Thank you Donna for reminding us we don’t need to be perfect in either our lives or our gardens!

    1. How wonderful Beth…I am sure your presentation went well…and how cool your dad has a wildflower garden about 30 minutes from me!!

  2. Hi Donna, Am I glad you are stubborn and are digging in yet again!! Love how our blogging journeys and life paths have crossed and paralleled over the last few years…….I sense we have a lot more growing and learning adventures ahead. x

    1. I suspect the same Catherine! It seems our journeys are connected my friend. I will be digging in again with another hurdle soon.

  3. I would rather fail any day and say that at least I tried…..then to not try at all. Besides, when you sip a bit of success…….amazing….right!!!!

    So those broccoli plants that were bitter and we threw out after they sprouted flowers….oops. I’ll give them another whirl.

  4. What a great post, Donna. I was extremely shy as a teen and young adult, but teaching forced most of it out of me. As a retiree, I made a conscious vow to myself to never miss out on something because I am afraid of failure, or too self-conscious. What a difference it has made in my life! Now I see people all around me who are giving up so much because they are, basically, afraid. For myself, I just trust in Jesus and go for it!

  5. Well said Donna and some valuable quotes there. I think it is all about vision – you (and I) have a vision for our gardens and we’re going to make it happen! Stay true! I am trying Malabar spinach this year – it grows as a vine. We’ll see … my artichokes were a failure – two years in a row so I am trying something else. Space is valuable! I have had success with those little clear stickers on the windows to prevent bird strikes – maybe enough for the Robin to realize it is not another Robin? I hope she will be okay!

    1. Oh I never heard of that spinach. I will be waiting to see how it goes as that could work…the robin story is complicated. She was wearing herself out so we had to put up an owl silhouette so she would move on…and she did to a new nesting site. I hated doing it, but I couldn’t have her beat herself to death.

  6. I think the quote is wonderful. I have found that as I get older I am much more willing to fail than when I was young and trying to be grown up. It is like admitting you are wrong or you don’t know the answer, something some people always find hard to do. Once you have failed it encourages you to find out why and how it happened, and then it arms you with increased knowledge and courage to go forward.

  7. I’m very good at failure. If I don’t expect to succeed I can have fun trying things out for their own sake – no alarming expectations attached. I suppose acceptance of almost inevitable failure might, from time to time, mean I am not as successful as I might be – but it means I have a life full of dreams.

    1. I love this perspective Esther…’trying things for their own sake’ and ‘having a life full of dreams.’ Life is indeed fun then!

  8. Thanks so much for the book Donna! I cannot wait to get my hands on it. And thank you for mentioning my blog. That is one of the Fails I feel right now. But I keep at it.

    The Changing Climate makes failure a necessity. I plant Natives, never to be seen again. Or they show up once and are gone. I allow myself two attempts, then move on. Tried Pipevine twice, no joy, moved to Virgin’s Bower, time will tell. And Bloodroot? One of six bloomed once, no sign this season. Not sure I will replace.

    I think we have to adapt. But those voles! OMG never seen such damage! Were they radioactive?

    I wonder if Root Pouches would help?

    And now I must plant four trees and three Juneberries so I am off. Thanks again

    1. You are very welcome Denise. I think we grow the voles big out here. One thing I have learned is that natives take a while to take hold. So if one of six bloodroot bloomed that is great. More will grow as time goes on and as the seed develop. And one of six is success!!

      1. thanks for the pep talk Donna. I am afraid that this bloodroot experiment is over. I will look for them again next year, but as the nature of my neighbor’s yards change, alas so do mine.

        Also, I have to unsubscribe from comments, not because I do not want to read them, but because they come in so often it crashed my gmail app on my 1st generation Ipad. ;0

        I will still read though.

        1. Sorry to hear about the bloodroot. You do not need to subscribe to comments on my blog. Just subscribe to the blog via email at the top of the sidebar. Then you get one email when I have a new post. And when I answer your comment you only get my email answer. That way it will not crash your gmail.

  9. This post has come right on cue for me! I’m having a bit of downer about the garden at the moment and what caused it – would you believe my failure, or rather my garden’s failure, to have grass seed germinate! If I had to guess what would have sent me on such a downer Grass seed would have been the last thing on my list!
    The pessimist in me always expects failure – that can at times be an advantage, especially in the garden.
    Great post Donna

    1. Thanks Angie….I think if we don’t expect much we are not disappointed in the garden especially around here with crazy weather…cold and rainy still…feels like end of March.

  10. Thought provoking post. I think you are right, we have to try things or we will never succeed. I’m sure that your failure rate isn’t so high, you are such a thoughtful person who doesn’t jump into things, success after failures is always very sweet, anyway.

    1. I agree Christina…that success finally is sweet…when I first started gardening boy was my failure rate high 🙂

  11. Some food for thought here Donna! I have had many failures, and have learnt so much from reading about other people’s successes and failures too. Good luck with all your projects and new ideas!

  12. Donna, this did make me think, I am learning so much from everybody’s blogs, I stopped for 6 months last year, there was so much going on and I did not feel like sharing any of it, but have started again now and enjoying the journey. I am sympathising over your voles too, they are running amuck in my veg garden currently!

  13. So absolutely true. If you are not willing to try for fear of failure, you have already Failed…Big Time.

  14. Oh I hear you loud and clear. I am paralyzed with fear with areas of my garden. It is so much harder to have to learn about native plants, source them and plant than to go to the garden center and pick something non-native…. But you give me some courage so on I go…. Michelle

    1. Oh Michelle how lovely of you to say so…I am happy to help anyone if I have info that will help…I think that is the teacher in us!!

  15. Bravo, Donna! Doubling my rate of failure: I need to look at decisions and career choices that way. Because as the quote says, “If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure — all your life.” It doesn’t stop, no matter what our age or stage in life. 🙂

    1. So happy this touched you Sue. You are right that this was written from the heart spilling words onto the page.

  16. Great post! I love the quote about doubling the rate of failure! I believe a lot of people are stuck in mediocrity because they fear failure. I always have this talk with myself that the worse that can happen is…and usually it’s not so bad. I made myself a promise to live until I died and to learn something new every year for the rest of my life. This philosophy has expanded my horizons and kept my life interesting and full.

  17. This was a great post, Donna. I almost didn’t start gardening more than 20 years ago because I was afraid it would all go to weeds and the neighbors would hate me. Well, it did all go to weeds many times while I was raising young children, but I did learn a lot, too, and if the neighbors were upset, they didn’t say. Helped that I live out in the country and no one could see the mess from their windows!

    1. Too funny Kathy! My garden continues to go to weeds due to life getting in the way…oh well the weeds look nice too sometimes.

  18. Great post. I have been removing a lot of plants lately – ones that have ‘failed’ in my garden. It’s hard to think about what I have done to make these plants fail, or what I should have done that would have made them succeed, but in the end, I’ve learned some things, am still learning things, and one thing I do love about gardening is that it is always challenging. I never stop learning! I guess that means I’m continually failing, and I love your perspective on it!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Holley…I figure if you fail you actually have succeeded because you learned and that will help improve your chances next time. Keep going my friend.

  19. Wonderful post Donna. I think us gardeners need to have a very open relationship with nature…after all she is in charge. I think I may have already talked with you about the thing our resident naturalist said to me: he called this past winter a “Deciding Winter”, meaning Mother Nature would decide who would stay and who wouldn’t make it. With that happening, our notion of failure doesn’t mean much! I sense you becoming stronger and stronger as you grow out with new things. REALLY excited to follow you!

    1. Oh Susie you again are too kind. But I feel like I am growing. I agree it is a “deciding winter” as I wait to see who made it through and who didn’t.

  20. Lots of food for thought there Donna. I’ve just planted up a new section of my front garden, and as always, despite having pondered what to put where for ages, am now consumed by the thought that I have got it all wrong. There’s always so much new to try when gardening, fertile ground for failure, whether from lack of experience, weather, pests… It can be very challenging. I hate failing, at anything, but I do tend to just try again. I did have to laugh when you wrote about what a fertile ground for experiencing failure growing edibles is! My sweet corn has just germinated. It was a total failure last year, I am very much hoping for success this year! And I am experimenting with plant supports too. Will be interesting to swap notes!

    1. I look forward to swapping notes so we can see our successes and failures Janet. I look forward to seeing that new front garden. Only you will see your failures (if there are any) which is another beauty of gardening.

  21. I never fail Donna – I just do not succeed! And in your garden or your words I only see conscientious striving -with a flourish. Besides the critters love the space you created and they are the best judges – not mentioning voles here!!

  22. Failure can be a beautiful gift and shouldn’t be feared. It teaches us as much as success does. It’s better to live bravely than to live in fear. Without failure there is no true learning.

  23. I kept thinking of “double the pleasure” throughout this post. If that’s the price of doubling failure, I guess we all should try to fail more often?! 🙂 Great post, Donna.

    1. Thanks Ginnie….I think we should not fear the failure as we learn so much from it and in that sense it does bring me pleasure…double the pleasure sometimes.

  24. I welcome failing if I learn and do better. The greatest minds on the planet have failed many times and that is what keeps them pushing forward to greatness. It is all in one’s outlook on things.

    1. I agree that it is far better to fail and learn….there is so much more you will learn from it…funny how the word failure brings up such baggage when we couldn’t progress without failing….I found that my fear really has come from being too much of a perfectionist, but that is another post…..I am loving learning so much about myself…..unfortunately I put my life on hold for far too long (another lesson for me)…..great comment Donna.

  25. Donna, This post really resonated for me. There were some successes I never experienced because I was afraid of failing. While cleaning out my office, I came upon some correspondence with journal editors from early in my career. I thought I remembered these letters of rejection well; in my memory, they were the kinds of rejections so scathing that they leave you feeling as though you should burn everything you’ve ever written and go jump off a cliff. So it was a surprise to read them from the vantage point of almost 40 years later and discover that they were actually very encouraging and supportive. But I was so afraid of failure at that point in my life that I couldn’t hear the encouragement, and I never did the suggested revisions or published that work. I like to think I’ve got a little bit better about risking failure as I’ve gotten older, but I’m not sure. As for my earlier fear-of-failure mistakes, I can’t undo them now; I can share them with younger colleagues, though, as a way of helping them avoid the same mistakes.

    1. Wow Jean. That is amazing to find those letters after all this time. I think I have gotten better with the fear of failure but I don’t think I will ever completely lose it.

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