What does success mean to you? I imagine this question would illicit a different response depending on who I asked. However, I would also imagine that there would be an overlap in the answers given. Perhaps you would say something like “becoming a millionaire” or “achieving my goals”. Neither of these answers are wrong, yet neither are right. They just are, just like someone else’s version of happiness will likely differ from yours. Success is, of course, subjective.
So then, is failure a form of success? The answer to this question depends on the framing. Though, in my opinion it absolutely is a form of success. A commonly used analogy is the gym. The process of pushing your muscles until they literally fail to move the weight and then letting the muscles recover. Rinse and repeat. After a while the weight you previously failed at will become easy, succeeding in ones mission to become stronger. For this goal to be achieved, failure was necessary. Actually, it’s unavoidable, one must fail in order to grow. I don’t mind this analogy. It’s simple. What I think is perhaps a more apt analogy is the idea of starting a new job.
It’s your first day. You don’t know the companies computer system, you have no idea what sort of social etiquette is accepted, or how often you can pull out your phone and send a text. You receive below average training and are soon left to fend for yourself. The manager doesn’t tell you who does what, or what the company considers acceptable or not. So, what happens? Well, you fail a bunch.
Perhaps in doing so you receive unfair criticism or feel like you’ve been set up for failure. Ones only course of action here, besides quitting, is learning on the fly. Failing, taking account of what went wrong and correcting your actions going forward. Eventually you become a competent member of your team, perhaps you even excel, gaining many promotions. Either way, you do not get there without failing first. This example can be applied across a myriad of different endeavours. Most of which we don’t consider necessary. And, often, these limiting beliefs and the fear of failure hold us back from doing what we want do with our lives.
Maybe you want to learn a new language? Or you wish to learn how to dance? Perhaps you’re in a job you hate and want to do a course, but you are fearful of the unknown. These situations require failing, probably a lot, and are scary to put into practice. I’m sure the idea of going to that dance class with your two left feet, is the scariest thing in the world. I know it would be for me. However, after awhile, you would get the moves under control. You would succeed in learning how to dance, even on a small scale. You might even become good, who knows. The failing is merely a part of the process, and if framed properly, can be viewed as a success.
I think it’s a skill that can be cultivated, the learning how to welcome failure in order to move toward a given goal. It’s impossible to achieve the things you want to achieve without it, and in my opinion, the fear of such a failure stops so many from flourishing and becoming the best versions of themselves. Its a true shame, and I believe if we liberated as many people as possible to step out of their comfort zones, that we would be better off as a species.
I know it’s a life long process for me, and I’m still scared of failure in regards to lots of things. I hope I always will be. I can’t speak Spanish to save my life. However, I still want to try and learn the language, no matter how silly I sound. Failing can actually be fun, if you just let go and embrace the suck. One can even look forward to it.
My hope is that you can take a little bit of inspiration from these words, to go after something you’ve always wanted to do, or try and learn that new skill you’ve been putting off for ages. That you lean into the failure, the cocoon that will inevitably produce the beautiful, wondrous best version of yourself. If not, just enjoy the ride. Laugh at yourself, and try sucking at something once in a while. You might just enjoy it.
Until next time
M L Wood ❤