Failure Is Only One Option Available After Not Succeeding
(From Salon.com © 2005)
All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. – Mark Twain
As infants we attempt to scale the bars of our crib without a clue as to how we’ll descend from our mini-world to the intriguing world below. We want to move on. We then attempt to walk before we’re able to comprehend the risks of falling. Devoid of common sense and experience, we learn by trial and error. Failure and embarrassment are never issues.
We fall and get up over and over again not caring about past failures or what impression we make. What matters is our need to experiment and accomplish all that we can. We crawl and then want to walk. We walk and then want to run. Certainly courage isn’t the reason for our fearlessness, for to be courageous one must be able to weigh the risks of failure. If we were able to contemplate potential failure and embarrassment before we had the motor skills, we would most likely have stayed in the crib and continued to crawl.
Youth is not wasted on the young. The young thrive on the benefits of youth. However, experience and maturity are often wasted on the mature because the naive fearlessness of youth has been eroded. Too often, as adults, our efforts are compromised by too much thought given to past failures, potential failure and embarrassment.
One condition that plagues many is the ‘failure subtotal syndrome.’ The weight of each attempt that ends in failure is added to past failures -- a sort of running failure subtotal that never zeroes out, but instead weighs heavily on all remaining decisions, efforts and self-perception.
Edison, when asked by reporters about how he survived dozens of failures while pursuing the right filament material for his light bulb, responded by saying that everything in life is a matter of perspective. He said that he chose to believe that each failed experiment was simply the successful elimination of another material that brought him closer to finding the right one. He simply chose to view each failure as a step toward eventual success.
Each attempt that ends in failure should not be added to some running subtotal. For each is a separate, disposable event, the only residue from which should be knowledge.
The worst feeling that results from each unsuccessful attempt is better than any from not having tried at all. When we try and don’t succeed, we feel courageous when the pain of not succeeding wears away -- and it always does. When we never try for fear of failing, the ache from our lack of self-respect remains eternal.
Stretch yourself. Attempt something you might fail at. And when you do, concentrate only on what’s necessary to accomplish that task. During moments of doubt or fatigue keep your eye on the prize, but make that prize the self-esteem that comes from doing your best. Do so and you’re guaranteed to never embarrass or fail the person who counts the most -- you.
“Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson