We never failed to fail, it was the easiest thing to do.
Crosby, Stills & Nash
No one likes to fail; it’s a horrible feeling. I personally dread it, I dread making mistakes and letting people down. But I’ve learned over time that failure, while to be avoided at times, is an important part of life. More importantly, it’s an important aspect to becoming a better person.
To Fail Is To Be Brave
Over the last year I’ve thought a lot about success, how to define it and how to ultimately achieve it. I’ve written about the necessity of taking action in order to improve your life, to stop marking time and to really achieve your dreams. At the core of this change, this personal paradigm shift though is fear. We all have it, but how we let fear define us will ultimately determine our success and happiness in life.
What are we scared of? Usually, it’s failure in some form or the other. We’re afraid of not being able to make things work out, to make others happy and that ultimately whatever it is we want to achieve isn’t possible. This can mean asking your boss for a raise, or confronting your loved one about something more personal. If the boss says no, we’ve failed. If we can’t make a relationship work, we’ve failed. Failures come in all sizes and shapes; they can be silly things or massive life altering events. But no matter what, these failures ultimately help us. We learn from them, with each failure a little bit of the overall puzzle is revealed giving us a clearer path to success. No great person has ever, ever had a life without failure. What makes them different from us is that they had the bravery, the fortitude to take the chance at failure. It’s no small thing, to put oneself out there and trying to do something different is scary but those who do will, ultimately, succeed. To fail, therefore, is a clear sign of bravery and indication that you’re doing something right.
Remember that failure is an event, not a person.
Accepting Failure From Others
Learning from failure isn’t a new message; it’s been oft-repeated advice for generations. But it’s more than just personal failure that helps us grow as people, it’s having the unique ability to accept it in others that I think takes things to a whole new level.
Personal failures are hard enough to accept, but failures heaped on us by others are extraordinarily hard to accept. But they’re no less important. If you believe that we live and work in units, groups of human beings helping each other, then failures by other people ultimately help us as well. A recent example that I have had to live through happened with a close friend who has been fighting some personal issues. They had made a lot of progress, but ultimately made mistakes along the way. I was disappointed in them and my first thought was that they were a failure, that they didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to once and for all change their life for the better. But then the Zig Ziglar quote above made me rethink that. They weren’t a failure; their entire life hadn’t been a waste or a mistake. Instead they had made a mistake – one. It was an event in time, a singularity in what will ultimately be a lifetime of mistakes, both large and small. That mistake was important for them. It taught them how hard their path was and gave them a renewed vigor to live a better life.
Extrapolated, that means that all of our mistakes, our personal failures either at work or with our families, do not define us. They are not who we are as human beings. Every new soul is born on this earth with I believe the ability to achieve great things and to be a good person. It is the culmination of a lifetime of choices, and mistakes, that then tailor the individual. But at no time, even the worst amongst us, can anyone really be called a failure. Rather, they have failed and these errors are just single moments in time. It is our reaction to those failures, what we do when slapped in the face that really, truly matters.
I’m a little preachy today obviously, but it’s been a hard year for me and I have failed many times in a variety of ways and have had to deal with the failures of others. At times I didn’t want to get out of bed, but it was ultimately thinking of myself NOT as a failure, but as a person with mistakes on his record that made all the difference. We’re all human, which is why we have to treat everyone, including ourselves, with kindness and humanity.
How have you learned from failure?