Failure is something I have become intimately acquainted with over the last five years. We’re not exactly BFFs, but more like frenemies. I know failure. Failure knows me. We don’t do everything together, but we do enough to be considered closer than any of my coworkers and plenty of my friends.
I want to make a few salient points, right up front, and then expound on them.
- Failure should not be rejected.
- Failure should not be avoided.
- Failure is (almost) never an end.
Let’s get started on this happiest of happy Friday posts.
Failure should not be rejected.
This is probably the most common thing I see people do, when they fail. They usually will become a faster/better spin machine than any politician or pundit ever hoped to be.
“I didn’t fail. What? It looked like that because this is part of my journey to success. I succeeded in other ways.”
No, you failed. You set out to accomplish ‘A’ and did not accomplish ‘A’. ‘B’ and ‘C’ might have happened, but ‘A’ was your target and you missed it.
Why do we do that? Why do we reject failure? Because we’re scared. We’re all insecure. To the person, every human being alive is frightened to their core of being really known. We’re taught from childhood to hide and mask our fears so that the predators among us don’t detect their prey. So we put on the bravery masks and set out to be whatever it is we think we ought to be.
And failure hurts. We reject it because we’re scared of showing how hurt we are by it and, therefore, how weak we really are.
Failure and weakness walk together, side by side. And as I am coming to learn, weakness is what I ought to be pursuing.
Failure should not be avoided.
This is the second big mistake I see so often with regard to failure. I said failure hurts. It does. And what do we do with things that hurt us? We go out of our way to avoid them. Me? I’m ninja-like in my avoidance of pain. I can tell you within about a minute of trying something if I will be able to do it without failing or not. That’s mostly do to experience.
But I must continue pursuing things I will fail at. I have to. Why? Weakness. If all I ever do is pluck the low-hanging fruit, land the jobs I know I’m going to be amazing at, and live a life within the confines of my shallow little world, then a few really horrible things happen:
- I’ll look really impressive.
- I’ll have to defend the facade I have built.
- I will compromise my conscience to preserve everything I “love.”
But if I turn to things that I know I will fail in pursuit of, a different pattern emerges.
- People will get to know who I really am.
- I can be vulnerable.
- I can pursue the truth without being afraid.
I say that because my writing has been the number one place where I have seen this happen from beginning to end.
I used to write in order to look impressive. It’s easier to look impressive when you do something others can’t or won’t. Seriously, just carve a canoe and people will think you’re a genius.
I used to write so that others would have something they could look at, instead of me. They could gaze on my talent and praise it and me, and the real me could look out from behind the curtain, soaking in pride.
I used to write in a way that was entirely dishonest to who I am, what I wanted, and how I saw the world. Oddly, though, certain themes rose up and through my writing despite my attempts to hide them.
Failure is (almost) never an end.
Failure is painful. Failure is almost never lethal. In our minds, pain and death are two things that tell us what decisions to make or avoid. When we can grow to accept the pain of failure, we can accept the power of weakness. Weakness takes eyes off of us, and fixes them somewhere else. We humans try to find the answer, no matter where it lies. In weakness, we declare to the world that we don’t have the answer. That we aren’t the successes that others might be looking for.
The key to failure is that it is the journey to weakness and that weakness ought to be pursued.
God help us all.