Failure. The word has such crushing connotations. We can’t help but think of negativity when we hear it, and we actively try to avoid it throughout our lives. Fear of failure can be crippling; it can hold us back from pushing and striving, and from reaching our fullest potential. But failure, far from being an ending, is actually a beginning.
I was recently asked during a Periscope broadcast about what my greatest successes and biggest failures were. Immediately I rattled off my daughter as my biggest success (good job, brain), but I couldn’t think of a single failure. Why? Because I no longer think of things in terms of failing, nor in terms of winning or losing. Because if you’re learning something, you’re not losing.
Yes, I have “failed” at plenty of things in my life — relationships, completing tasks on my ‘to do’ list, learning to play the harp (*sigh*)… But how can it really be a failure when I’ve learned so much? How can I have “failed” at relationships when I’m now happily married? How can I have “failed” at completing tasks on my ‘to do’ list when my house is still standing and my family is still whole? How can I have “failed” at playing the harp when I’ve learned that I have greater priorities and abilities?
It may be considered learning “the hard way”, but it’s still learning. It’s still growing. I’d rather get where I’m going through my own grit and determination than to have it handed to me on a plate and never truly appreciate or understand it.
Failing, you see, is just figuring out what doesn’t work, so you’re one step closer to finding out what does. It teaches you what’s important, and how to improve. If anything, it’s just unfinished success.
If we gave up on everything when the going got tough, we wouldn’t even be walking right now. Because a baby doesn’t fall on her arse and consider herself a failure. No, she learns balance. She increases her stability and strength. She keeps putting one foot in front of the other until, before you know it, she’s asking you for lend of a tenner so she can buy sweets at the shop after school.
So why, as adults, do we give up on something as soon as we fall? Why do we struggle to brush ourselves off and get back in the game? Why do we beat ourselves up?
Failure is not the END of success, it’s the very stepping stone we use to get there. The people we consider to be top of their field only got there by failing. And by failing a LOT.
Writers have rough drafts, sports stars have practice runs, actors have multiple ‘takes’… Nobody knocks it out of the park 100% of the time. Even Babe Ruth had bad days, but he didn’t let it stop him from getting back out there and hitting home runs.
The greatest failure in life is letting fear rule it. It’s not trying something, or giving up early on, because of a fear of failure. It’s not even bothering to follow your dreams in case you don’t succeed on the first go.
The greatest glory, on the other hand, is to fail at something and then come back from it, braver and better than ever. Stronger. Wiser. Emboldened. Embracing failure for the mentor it is.
“Failure” is when you stop doing things the wrong way and learn to do them the right way. It’s the beginning of a new phase, and it’s the first step to freedom.