Failure like shit, happens! They also both stink and they both can be used as fertilizer to grow or produce something. Yeah I know…..that’s some real poetry……well, maybe not. But it is my premise from which I’m basing my views regarding failure. Recently, I posted about my disappointing day at the Raleigh 70.3 Ironman. Due to issues that really don’t matter regarding this post, I was unable to finish the race. I failed and I said as much in my post. I also noted that it is kind of interesting that the only way we can really push ourselves to our limits and know that we’ve reached them is to give it everything and fail. Anything other than failing means we didn’t find our limit. In that sense, I’m totally ok with failing. However, that’s not what has prompted me to “ruminate” about failure or write this post. No. It’s the responses I’ve received both publicly and privately. So many really caring, supportive and well meaning people have said (and I’m paraphrasing): “Oh you didn’t fail, you gave it your all.” Well, yes. Yes I did. I gave it my all and, yes, I failed.
Now look I totally get it and I really appreciate so many people being kind and looking for the nice thing to say. I went on to say in my post that those who have sent me random notes or have commented on something I’ve written will never know just how much I deeply appreciate it. I sincerely mean it. So it’s with much love that I say we’ve got to get our heads out of our ass about failure. The fear of failing is the number one reason people don’t even start something, much less go for their dreams. It’s also the reason the kid riding the bench on a last place team inexplicably gets a trophy. BTW, he or she knows they didn’t earn it. Which actually embarrasses them even more. Not to mention, it devalues the accomplishment for which they were striving and competing. Perhaps the most insidious thing about this ass backward view of failure is…….If you never get knocked down and fail, then you never learn to get back up. And I believe in my bones that it’s only in the getting back up that we truly succeed. Think about it for minute. How many times have you ever done or tried something for the first time and you were completely successful? And even if you were, wouldn’t you have to wonder if that is really success? I mean if you can just do it….where’s the accomplishment? No, I’d argue that true success only comes from overcoming some obstacle.
Final thought: one comment I received read, “You’re not a failure.” This quickly had me thinking, what the hell? Who said anything about being a failure? This is what I find so interesting. In my view, you can only succeed by failing along the way. So failing is not the same thing at all as being a failure. One thing is for sure. If you never try, you will never fail. And by my definition, if you never fail you will never truly succeed. Therefore, the only way to be a failure is to never experience failing. My wish is that we will all get a little more comfortable with failing. So we can all get a little closer to succeeding. Now that sounds more like poetry.