I went to dinner with an old friend today, and the conversation turned to the idea of failure and what it means. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it a divine thing that points us in the direction we are supposed to travel? Over cheesy garlic bread and calzones, we discussed examples of failure in our own lives, and ended up drowning our self-induced misery in a carb fest of delicious Italian food. But, I learned something from our conversation I had not realized about myself previously.
I have a heart for failure, and I think it’s starting to show. I have failed at a great many things. Being a good friend, a good sibling, a good spouse, I have even failed at taking out the trash a good many times. I have failed in the workplace, got my butt handed to me on the athletic field, and every time I take a shower I remember my failure for singing. I have failed at cooking a great many recipes, and in baking I am still hopelessly inept. It’s enough to make anyone crawl in a hole and refuse to come out again. I realized something though that until today had been nonexistent to me: I’m getting better.
Through this failure, I have continued to try. The world has kept spinning. I may forever be the clumsiest person in the room but I’m still standing (for now.) Culture has taught us that failure is bad, and avoiding this “essence” of failure is worth the multi-billion dollar industry that it has become. Failure of poverty, of weight gain, of unemployment, of failing in love… What if these things are not the true issue? Failure is in the strictest of terms, lacking a goal that someone else has placed importance in. Obviously we need our basic needs met: food, shelter, clothing, love. But what if failure is also a basic need? What if failure is something we need to experience in order to see the successes that we do have? Oftentimes the hardest working, most successful individuals are those that have failed the most. Why is that?
I believe it is this: They took off the glasses of the world for a moment, and decided that they would do better to not wear them at all. If you took cultural expectations, family expectations, friend expectations all off the table and only focused on what you see as expectations for yourself, how would you say you were doing? I think most of us would be pretty critical of ourselves. “I could be thinner, prettier, make more money, do more for my spouse and kids, be better in my faith, work harder.” The list goes on and on. Now take a step back and think of where you have come from. Keeping all those outside expectations aside, how do you feel you are doing now? Pretty good, right? You learned how to tie your shoes, you can breathe on your own (some aren’t so lucky.) Your reading this. You have enough want to better yourself that you got this far in the article. You may know how to speak two languages, or had to learn a new language in a foreign land and guess what, your reading it now. You may have lost the ability to walk and regained it, or took five months to do one push up, but hey you made it happen. You is smart, you is important… okay well I’m not going to go there.
Point is, failure is important. It is vital. It builds stamina and clears the air for the successes you will have. Screw the peanut gallery. They aren’t going anywhere, which is why they are in the peanut gallery to begin with. You aren’t, you are striving for greatness, and in that endeavor you are going to get a few bumps on the head. Or be like me and have a permanent goose egg. Either way, you are moving forward. Be proud of your failure, learn from it, and run ahead. Fast. I still suck at baking, but some of those dishes I burnt to a crisp I have requests for now. You are getting better, I promise. Keep failing, and ultimately you will keep succeeding. Have a heart for failure, and a willingness to persevere.