Begin Again in 10 Week 3: Failure
I should start with a quote. Or with a direct question. Oh, I know: etymology of the word. That’s deep. On second thought, anecdotes always work best. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good story? Let me go back to the first five drafts of this essay. There’s gotta be something in there I could possibly use…
Did I make you giggle? Or did I fail at that? Don’t get me wrong, I do care about you and your engagement. I want to make it worth your while. Yet, no matter how much research I could do, someone somewhere will find this piece disappointing. Lacking. Amateurish. It may well be. To a seasoned writer, I probably have my punctuation all mixed up. And that is just to begin with. From my choice of words to the length of the introduction, you could swing that big red pen left and right until all that’s left is my signature at the very bottom.
So why am I still here? A non-native speaker of English, in and out of therapy, writing about failure. Is it just me, or did I just provide the definition of the word right there? All jokes aside – unless I write this piece, I will never manifest my thoughts. Unless I manifest my thoughts, I will never be able to challenge myself. Unless I challenge myself, I will never grow. And unless I grow…
The point should be clear by now. But let me rephrase: failure and action are two sides of the same coin. You can stubbornly stare at the heads, but you are still holding the tails in the palm of your hand. We have become forgetful. We clap our hands and chuckle when we hear babies mispronounce words as they learn how to speak. Yet, we are incapable of the same compassion when it is us who is trying to master a new skill. Instead of taking stock, regrouping and refocusing, we throw our hands up in the air and succumb to despair. Freedom, also from self-judgement, comes through discipline and relentless repetition*. Not having completed a course, not having even started one, is just as important to go through as having aced a test or graduated with honors. In the end, all these lessons get filed under the same category: experience.
To stir the pot even further, get this: you may be having the time of your life and still look to the outside world like an utter failure. Conversely, you can be at your lowest and your friends and family will wish they were you when they grow up. The feeling of failure, regardless if perceived externally or internally, starts to fizzle out when confronted with gratitude and, frankly, minding your own business. Know your “why”, inside out, and no one, not even your own self, will be able to get in your way.
I did not open with a quote, but I will close out with one. Jordan Peterson said in his TED talk**: “Follow what you’re interested in. It will take you to adversity and then through it it will transform you from a citizen into an individual. And then the doors will open again. And at that point you are strong enough to have your life.” And if that does not work for you, you might want to know that the origin of the word “fail” can be traced back all the way to Latin, where it translates into “stumble”. To me, tripping over my feet every now and then seems like an acceptable price to pay considering I am steadily moving forward.
*See Jocko Willink’s book “Discipline equals freedom. Field manual”.
**Potential: Jordan Peterson at TEDxUofT