Issue #50 — 3.5 minute read
👋 Hey phi-lazy-phers
I used to have a visceral reaction to hearing, saying, or claiming the word. I was repulsed by it. The idea of failure felt defeating and depressing. Why embrace failure when the goal is success? It felt counterintuitive - the opposite of what I wanted. As usual, I journaled to find where my association might have come from...
Thinking back to grade school, the times I got a failing grade (represented by the letter "D" or "F" for my schooling system) felt like being branded with the inability to achieve based on someone else's standards. Not to mention, there are often negative social consequences associated with failing. For example, additional homework, not advancing to the next grade, getting "grounded," not going outside/hanging out with friends - all creating further alienation from others.
As I grew older, this turned into university rejections, job denials, missed personal goals, unrequited friendships, and romantic involvement. I noticed that failure was often accompanied by focusing on everything I did wrong and less on how I excelled. And due to systemic injustice, failing also didn't seem like an option for someone who has to be two times better to be considered half as good. It's not surprising that I grew to dread the experience of failing and did everything I could to avoid it.
Failure seems like a universal experience, so I figured there's no shortage of musings on the matter.
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
Children have a lesson adults should learn, to not be ashamed of failing, but to get up and try again. Most of us adults are so afraid, so cautious, so 'safe,' and therefore so shrinking and rigid and afraid that it is why so many humans fail. Most middle-aged adults have resigned themselves to failure.
There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.
The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success.
When we give ourselves permission to fail, we at the same time give ourselves permission to excel.
We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes—understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.
Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
Henry David Thoreau
If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
But instead of spending our lives running towards our dreams, we are often running away from a fear of failure or a fear of criticism.
Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit.
I'm not sure when it was, but I had a shift in the meaning I attached to failure. Maybe it was getting older, having more experiences, and no longer caring (for the most part) how others perceive or assess my abilities and performance. Or reading books that helped me learn that failure isn’t inherently wrong; it’s instrumental to the process. In what I once feared, I found joy.
The mere idea of failing started to excite me. I think it's because it means that there's room to grow. And I don't ever want to reach a point where I'm done learning. The reality (back then and now) is that with any "failure" I encountered, I took with me something that eventually aided in my success:
That failed test? > It showed me where my knowledge was at, how to analyze my mistakes, and understand the solution
Denied job application? > Created space for a more aligned opportunity
A relationship that didn't work out? > Taught me what I did and didn't want in relationships and how I contributed (for better or worse) to the experience
These are learnings that can only come from failure. And while I might not have appreciated it at the moment, I can now look back and see how they paved the way for my success. I look forward to making more mistakes in the future.
✌️ Until next week, happy philosophizing.
Humankind & Society
The Lazy Philosophy Podcast
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