Failure has no character in itself but people who fail do. Unfortunately, we’ve abused what I consider to be the true purpose of failure and attribute to it the character of people whose responses to it have been far from neat. We label people with ease and dread to wear the same. The corporate world and educational system have even gone ahead to calibrate it – making some degrees of it somewhat acceptable because somehow people who fall in here are salvageable while some degrees condemn people who attain them to the bottom of the ecosystem – poor valuations, demotions, salary freezes, terminations, business and literal suicides, with the worst effects being psychological and sociological. We treat whatever goodness emanates from our failures as serendipitous but what if, failure was designed to always… always bury us in the richness of the true sources of growth – insight and well, discomfort. After all, if life was cozy, there wouldn’t be breakthroughs. The tragedy is that a lot of us consider failure finished goods rather than work-in-progress.
Here’s my theory: failure is a resource, a variable from which the quality of who we are depends upon.
- Failure is the poorly baked batch of pastries that go back into production and give us a better sense of how to mix or heat next time.
- Failure is what redirects us to paths of better understanding of… anything.
- Failure is simple; simply an outcome of disharmony that is either unexpected or unwanted.
It’s not as deep as a character you’d embody so you see, we have reveled in the ultimate state of wrongness by assuming that our infinite intelligence is truly at the mercy of an ideally momentary case of disappointment. It’s never that deep.
This post may come off as lacking empathy but like Vishen Lakhiani would say, “we do not grow from apathy but from insight and discomfort”. Anyway, I hope these definitions are as shallow and unfamiliar as I could have managed. Here’s why. The menace that the notion of failure has created for humanity stems from this destructively romantic idea that we need only beauty and greatness to create value from ourselves.
That failure taints you and obstructs the flow of success from out of you.
That failure is a dead-end that that somehow paralyzes everyone and sows in you a struggle that may share the rest of your lifetime with you.
We have all these deep definitions that have done nothing but deny us of the freedom that experiences should grant us. No matter how it feels, experiences grant us the freedom of knowledge; of taking it and birthing things that the world may never have seen because no two people experience the same thing the exact same way. Ever! So if we do not place a demand on our failure experience to produce something worthwhile, we just about wasted another resource.
You’re probably thinking “It’s easier said than done.” Well I’m not asking you to do anything. I am telling you to learn from the outcome of what you’ve already done. Stop sending potentially universe-changing lessons off to your memory wrapped in despair. Applying yourself to this “new” knowledge is what ensures a progression in whatever it is you decide to do next. And so while you do not go about looking to fail at something, you do want to create room for the possibility of it without resentment or apprehension. It’s the same space that’ll allow you to experience an extra of everything else. It is in this same space that failure might occupy that you can find room to house more of yourself as you evolve and spread in directions that you thought impossible. Do you not see how failure is not static? See how it can be a do-over or a do-different or even a do-anything-else, and these are things most humans feel deprived of.
Know this. Failure was not designed to be owned and therefore, you do not get to accept it. However, people are unsure of whether they have what it takes for their failures to work for them. It is perceived to be an iron ball that falls into your hands and paralyses you; too heavy to carry onwards and too heavy to let you bend enough to drop it. So acceptance sets in.
The thing is that you have to trust yourself enough not to accept something that doesn’t belong to you. You have to trust yourself to make use of every resource available to create something extraordinary; failure is just one more of that.
Let’s deal with the feelings. I know failure doesn’t feel good and that we all like to feel good but let’s face it! Production processes were not designed to always feel good. Consider childbirth, manufacturing, staying married (let’s be honest here), construction and intense training for anything worthwhile. Like the aforementioned, you need to gain mastery of it until it’s etched in your belief system and you’ve developed systems of living that “just quitting” become alien to you.
You should allow yourself feel emotions but remember that emotions are not for your consumption, they are for state elicitation which then determine what you consume and become. See, loss isn’t always a thing of choice, grief is and kills.
We are meaning-making machines and are unconsciously creating meanings around our experiences which are lodged within us as either empowering beliefs or limiting ones. This is a consistent on-going process such that your conscious mind may not perceive it until its decision making time and then you begin to take sub-optimal decisions. We cannot afford to leave a function as vital as this to volatile emotions so while it may feel horrible to be at some places, remember that emotions are a product of survival instinct that let you express yourself in the bid to find some ease. Do not allow the entirety of who you are be buried by them because when it all passes and you can see clearly, you’ll only see what it robbed you off and you may well count that as even more failure. Raising consciousness and being mindful of this goes a long way in saving you from ‘meanings’ that do not empower you to breakthrough from the bottom of life experiences.
Failure should not get to outlive most of your subsequent life experiences. It is inventory therefore should not take up space in your facility without creating some kind of value that can further your mission in life. Take stock of the greatest people and observe how they took their sour experiences, like inventory, and put it to work in creating the lives that they deserve. Look what Jack Ma, Abraham Lincoln, Arianna Huffington, Steve Jobs did with it. This can be our story. Failure can be inventory for you too and because life is such a sweetheart, it’ll find a way of asking you tomorrow, what you’ve done with yours.