Avoiding Crisis

on failure

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I’ve failed my way to success. –Thomas Edison

Failure – the state or condition of not meeting an intended objective.  

Why do we, as a society, look upon failure as being so awful?  In classrooms, boardrooms, on the playing fields and on the battle fields, we are constantly reminded that “failure is not an option.”  But the truth of the matter is, failure is ALWAYS an option.  We should try to remember that more often.  We say that it’s about how hard you try, that you give it your all, that success is not about winning but about how you play the game.  If only that was true.  It’s all about winning.  It’s all around us.  We must succeed, we must be the best, nothing short of excellence is tolerated.  

A ninth grade biology teacher tried to teach me a lesson about failing.  He gave me an F on an exam that I had really passed.  He knew how important getting good grades was to me – how too important it was – and he thought that I needed to learn what it felt like to fail.  At the time I couldn’t see the value of his lesson; today I understand it a lot better.  As a parent I just hope I always remember to teach my children that failure is okay, it makes us stronger, wiser and much more prepared for the eventual successes that are bound to come. 

Listen, I’m not your optimistic, glass half-full type, but if I’ve learned anything over these past few weeks of “self-exploration” is that failure may be the best thing that has happened to me.  When I began this project, it forced me to face up to the fact that I had not lived up to my own expectations, regardless of how high or unrealistic these expectations might be.  I wrote, matter-of-factly that on my 30th birthday I would officially be a failure.  This one statement has elicited very strong comments both offline and on-line and these comments have forced me to think about what being a failure means, at least in the context that I have written.  What I’ve come to realize, or maybe what I’ve always realized but never wanted to admit to myself, is that had I succeeded in completing any of the goals that I had set for myself, oh so many years ago, I would be a completely different person.  And while I can honestly admit that I might not be completely satisfied with the current state of my life (I’d like to meet a person who is), I am happy. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m proud of not having accomplished the pre-30th birthday goals that I set for myself.  But in retrospect, it’s not like I tried very hard to accomplish any of these things either.  I thought about them a lot, but did I give it my all? No, not really.  Other things came up and I journeyed down a different path. With every life decision we make, one door closes and another opens.  While that door may not lead to where you thought it would, or even to where you hoped it would, you proceed and you learn from the next journey that awaits you.    

Don’t be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience.  — John Keats

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Written by nicolemarie

January 27, 2007 at 11:20 am

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