The Aesthetics of Failure

In Japan, there is the art of Kintsu­gi. In this tra­di­tion­al repair method, bro­ken ceram­ics are glued with a lac­quer dust­ed or mixed with pow­dered gold, sil­ver or plat­inum. Rather than con­ceal­ing the frac­tures in the best pos­si­ble way, they are then high­light­ed. The blem­ish is seen as an impor­tant part of the his­to­ry of the object and it is pre­cise­ly in this unique imper­fec­tion that the actu­al beau­ty is seen. This artis­tic repair work clear­ly shows the prin­ci­ple of Wabi-Sabi, which is apt­ly described by Bud­dhist author Taro Gold as “the wis­dom and beau­ty of imperfection”.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Thomas A. Edison

It is a ques­tion of aes­thet­ics in the orig­i­nal sense of the Greek word αἴσθησις aísthē­sis, which has noth­ing to do with beau­ty but rather means per­cep­tion. On the one hand, a shat­tered tea bowl can be con­sid­ered as a dis­as­ter and the end of the bowl, or as a tran­si­tion to anoth­er and even more beau­ti­ful state of being. The bro­ken tea bowl always remains the same, only our per­cep­tion of it and how we treat it changes.

Suc­cess is not final, fail­ure is not fatal: it is the courage to con­tin­ue that counts.
Win­ston Churchill

This aes­thet­ics of imper­fec­tion can be trans­ferred to how we deal with fail­ure. Do we see in the fail­ure of an attempt, in an aber­ra­tion in our lives, in a non-straight­for­ward biog­ra­phy or in a failed busi­ness idea a stain for which we are ashamed and which we hide, or do we see in it an impor­tant expe­ri­ence which con­tributes to our unique per­son­al­i­ty and which we proud­ly empha­size? I would like to see more com­pa­nies and a soci­ety in which we val­ue effort and learn­ing at least as much as the per­fect gap size in our cars. I would like us to rec­og­nize fail­ure as an oppor­tu­ni­ty and as an essen­tial con­tri­bu­tion to our devel­op­ment, rather than a tragedy. And I hope that, in addi­tion to all our knowl­edge and engi­neer­ing skills, we will have the courage to tack­le the great chal­lenges of our time with this growth mind­set.

You can’t con­nect the dots look­ing for­ward you can only con­nect them look­ing back­ward. So you have to trust that the dots will some­how con­nect in your future. You have to trust in some­thing: your gut, des­tiny, life, kar­ma, what­ev­er. Because believ­ing that the dots will con­nect down the road will give you the con­fi­dence to fol­low your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path.
Steve Jobs

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