If I think about it clearly, I’ve encountered failure in some way, shape or form as often as I’ve eaten cooked dinners . Big fails (taking a job not suited to me, letting important relationships fizzle out). Little fails (making the train on time, getting my mash potatoes the right consistency). And everything in between (learning Paranoid Android on Guitar, speaking German ).
Why have I failed?
Lack of ability. Lack of application and discipline. Expectations set too high. Unreasonable and unachievable goals.
How’s that for a dispassionate and disinterested assessment on why I don’t always succeed. But you know what?
If there’s one thing I want to be known for in this life, it’s as a person who does what he says he will do.
And failure gets in the way of me keeping my word (see above as to why I’m not always able to make good on my promises).
But failure is just a word, only a label, imposed by me (or others) upon me.
Definitions change. People change. Labels fade and become redundant, as the world changes. The adhesive dries, the corners come loose and curl inwards. Soon it’s easier just to tear it off and throw it away .
There are many dimensions to who I am, multiple threads of my life that are interweaving concurrently with other threads.
So here’s what I tell myself: Don’t let failure become a cul-de-sac or full-stop. Follow failure with ‘OK, so here’s what I’ll do next…’
In practical terms I’m learning to give failure meaning and context by using it as a link in the chain:
I (my novel) recently failed to get selected for the advanced round of a manuscript development program I was involved in. My opus, my era-defining statement, slighted and overlooked .
Pow! Bam! Take that, you Donna Tartt, Bret Easton Ellis wannabe!
As the sting of rejection lessened a realisation began to form.
I still haven’t worked out what my novel is about. The core message, and therefore the voice, of the novel isn’t clear. The jumble of ideas I have in my head for this project, are still just that – a jumble.
So yes, it’s a setback along the way, but nothing more. A reminder that the twinge in my gut, the snap of frustration, the bitter taste in my mouth is because what I’m doing means something, and I need to go again, work harder, persist, persist, persist .
Fail Fast. Fail Early.
Embrace it, don’t be consumed by it. Take the lesson on the chin then move on.
Keep fighting the good fight, because it matters, to you, if no one else.