I would like to share with you something I’m looking forward to accomplishing this year: failure. Yep, failure. And I wish it for you as well. I wish for your defeat, disappointment, breakdown, and collapse. I wish these things for all of us, and this is why.
I’m not sure if it is uniquely American – I tend to think it is not – but I am constantly amazed by people’s reluctance to accept and, at times even embrace, failure. Failure, it seems, continues to suffer from a negative connotation. I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts – and those of others – about why I believe failure is such good fortune.
First: all things fail. All systems are broken systems. Spoiler alert for those of you that wait until the end of a movie or a book for the climax: here on Earth, everything dies. And. You. Can’t. Stop. It. So why not embrace it? Rich or poor. Win or lose. Success or misfortune. King or peasant. If I were describing them as The Keys to the Success of Failure I would say that one of the keys is: this isn’t the end.
Everything you do now – or don’t do- is all just the beginning. I used to think when my kids were younger that they were mine. I loved them wholly and selfishly and tightly rejoiced and cried with them throughout. As they have grown and matured I have come to recognize that experiencing the agony of the lows is often times more important than the euphoria of the highs.
I can speak to this not only as a parent but as a son as well. Throughout my life one of my greatest advocates was my dad – my rock – there for the peaks and there for the valleys, yet the single greatest moment of our relationship came with me sitting at his side, gently rubbing his chest, as he took his last breath.
Next to holding my children as they took their first breath of life, sharing his last is my most cherished thing. A failure of life yet it’s greatest lasting moment. Make peace with what you have because it really isn’t yours.
Second: failing means you did something. It may not have turned out the way you envisioned or followed the plan you had set out, but you did it. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that do not work.” Now that’s a fantastic take on it. Look around. Take a second right now and, wherever you are reading this, look around. A lot of those people you see – even if you’re alone – aren’t doing anything. They are just there.
If you took the time to talk with them long enough about why they’re not doing anything, most of them would talk about, or around, the issue of failure. And here’s the important distinction: the idea of failing keeps people from doing, not the act of failing. Look around again. Everything in your environment is there because someone did it.
Someone made the desk, the wall, the street, the airplane, this blog. So go. Maybe you will fail. Maybe you will find one of 10,000 ways that doesn’t work. At least you did it.
I will leave you with the same challenge that I give myself: be strong enough to be a failure. Have you ever heard “succeed or die trying”? Bullshit. Total bullshit. Succeed or die doing. When you do something, do it epically. If you’re going to burn, burn brightest. Fail epically. Die gloriously. Shine so bright people remember your heat not just your light.
Go. Fail. Grow.