Failure – Is It An Option?

Hello Dear Ones,

We are very interested lately in this notion of what you call failure. We don’t really understand it, because in all honesty it really doesn’t make sense. Think about it. What is it, in your actual definition? We know there are many platitudes cycling about, with the “only if you stop trying” and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of talk. But what if it’s time to stop trying? What if you have no straps on your boots by which to pull? What then?

Is it failure when you don’t achieve your goals? Then is it maybe time to adjust the goals? What makes you think they were proper goals to begin with? A lot of what you may consider “failure” might just be poorly considered goals.

Is it failure when you make a choice that works out differently than you supposed? What are you, psychic? In charge of the whole darn world? Able to leap tall obstacles in a single bound? What makes you think it should always work out the way you think? What makes you think it is personal to you if it does not? Is nobody supposed to get ill or die or have tragedy? Are nobody’s brakes supposed to fail on a curve above the ocean? Is this what you are talking about when you say failure? Oh, no?

Are you maybe describing the feelings of fear and insecurity you have when you can’t make sure of everything all the time, and all at once? Is “failure” code for “uncomfortable”, “not in control”, “uncertain”, “anxious” and just plain scared? Maybe failure is a word that gives you back a sense of responsibility, which feels more comfortable somehow than to acknowledge you are actually not in charge of very much at all. Hm?

We suggest that you rethink the use of this word and in fact this very idea. We suggest that you come up with kinder, more accurate descriptions for yourself and your experience. We suggest that you be more creative with your reflections of how you perceive yourself being in this world. We think it might help.

It seems to us that when a person says or thinks they are a failure (and when, one wonders, did failure go from an experience one has to an identity of who one is?), they are just feeling bad. They are maybe feeling hopeless, maybe uncertain of where to go next, possibly overwhelmed by all the components of a lifetime which make it so challenging to find and make one’s way. It is easy, we think, to let the overwhelm cloud your vision, and become unable to see things – and yourself – as they truly are. Nobody else is or should be held to the level of scrutiny or critique that you hold yourself to. Nobody else is perfect, or a failure. Think about it.

Setbacks are the spice of life. Everyone has them. If you use them well, they become fodder and fuel for your dreams. If you use them at all, they become a cautionary tale. In some cases they become the seeds of future happiness – someone out there met their future spouse on a day they were feeling discouraged. More than one person, honestly, we bet. Out of 7 billion people, there are just not the odds that everyone who feels loved met their special people on a day they felt successful. Think about it. All of the myths you have in your head, they don’t hold up to scrutiny. You don’t have to feel lovable to be lovable, or to be loved. And isn’t that what you mean when you say you’re a failure? You feel unlovable, and unloved.

Failure is not something to avoid. It might be the best thing that ever happened. It is perhaps a strange idea, but maybe failure is something to cultivate. What do they say, something about keeping friends close and enemies closer? Maybe to cultivate failure would be to release its hold on you. Maybe if you try to screw up, you would have a chance to observe all the mechanisms in place. Maybe you would learn how you sabotage yourself, or set unreasonable, unattainable, unwieldy, unmanageable goals. Maybe you would be less afraid of failure once you come to know it so well. Maybe you would take it in stride, as kids do when they learn to walk. (There was a little pun there, in stride, walking, get it? hee hee)

Gravity is not the enemy. It serves many useful functions, keeping you on the planet for one thing, and making sure apples fall down where you can get them for another. And yet, when you try to learn to walk or ride a bike, or twirl, gravity can have quite a negative, painful impact (quite literally). This does not make the falling down personal. Falling down in no way makes you a lesser person. There is not a walking human on this earth who learned to do that thing without falling more than once. Quite a lot, actually. It hurts sometimes, and sometimes even results in injuries. Sometimes people die. But everyone dies some day, and it never is personal to anyone. It’s part of the freakin deal. Like gravity. Like failure.

When you learn to walk without falling so much, you have developed balance, and resilience, and core muscle strength, and coordination, and more. You have confidence now that, even though you could always fall when walking (and many people fall while sitting or even lying down – gravity is nondiscriminatory in nature), you have experience, you have tools to help you stay upright, you have reflexes and balance and experience developed along the way. Developed through falling, not through not falling. Success, such as it is, comes from failing. Not from not failing. That’s like saying you can grow a plant without a seed. Botanical anomalies aside, pretty much that’s how it works. Failure is the seed of success, which then flourishes and eventually develops and disseminates (literally) more seeds (failures). Did you think there was only one way for technology to develop? Of course not. Think about videotapes. Think about computers, and airplanes and cars. You are not flying in the plane that the Wright brothers flew in. Why would you? There is more than one way to fly. But there will always, always be gravity to contend with. If there wasn’t, would anyone be trying to fly? No. They would be trying to figure out how people could stick to the ground of the planet and not go shooting off into space. It’s all relative, what one is trying to accomplish, and what direction one points oneself in.