And so it does… Thanks for joining me!
First, please don’t be alarmed. Yes, this journal is about failure. Personal, professional, in every area of life that counts, failure. It is an uncomfortable topic that scares most people half to death and makes them want to make phone calls anytime someone mentions that they might just feel like…here it comes, deep breath, it really will be okay…like a failure.
But this journal is also about hope, resilience, grit, and a whole lot of humor. In order to deal with failure you have to face it. You have to come to terms with it. Life is full of failure, indeed most of the literature reiterates that if you want to succeed you have to fail; a lot. You have to be prepared to fail because there will be a lot of failure to get through before you can hope to succeed.
And that is true. Most anyone who has ever succeeded in anything can give you a long list of failures. And success is everything in our social order isn’t it? There are whole industries dedicated to giving us all advice on how best to succeed. We are encouraged to succeed at education and personal improvement; in relationships and marriage, in raising children and caring for aging parents. We are encouraged to succeed in our job searches, networking, career development and promotions, getting raises, workplace politics, and dealing with superiors and subordinates alike.
But what happens when everything you do results in failure? Or maybe closer to the truth here, is what happens when everything you do feels like it results in failure? Because we all fail at some things, succeed in others; we all feel like failures, usually because we failed at one really big important thing and for some reason we get this silly idea that we will never get another chance to succeed at it. Life goes on, and either new opportunities appear and we get more chances; or they don’t and we keep on failing and then we get all bitter and angry about it and…
We end up miserable. And people start avoiding us because there is literature out there for those who are seeking success that recommends avoiding unsuccessful people. Apparently, failure is contagious and potentially deadly. It is like the flu, or Ebola or anthrax or something. If you catch a case of failure, especially prolonged failure, you might pass it on to others and it could become epidemic. I have yet to see actual scientific studies proving the claim that failure is contagious.
But there are a lot of scientific studies that prove that stress causes illnesses and injury. Stress can cause anxiety and depression, physical diseases and bad decisions that can lead to injury. Certain failures are linked to high stress; such as divorce, death of a spouse, job loss, and long-term unemployment. And failure is everywhere; stress everywhere, and no you will not die immediately from it, it can over time adversely affect your health and quality of life. It can affect your mental health and your relationships with others.
And I am not telling you anything you probably don’t already know about failure and stress. So here is what you don’t know. Some of us don’t ever succeed. For one reason or another, we just fail and it may not be anybody’s fault. or it might be everyone’s fault; or might just be that individual’s fault. And sometimes people succeed and then they fail. And sometimes the people who do succeed live a good portion of their lives terrified they will lose that success, maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but they still feel that fear.
We have to come to terms with failure and most especially the possibility that success is not something we can achieve. This is not something most people want to hear; and even less really want to acknowledge this as a possibility. But it is the only way I have ever found to stop that fear of failure in its tracks. Because I am someone who is a failure in every aspect and criterion that is currently valued in our society. Furthermore I have been failing spectacularly for 45 years now.
If there is one thing I am actually good at, it’s failing. But do not feel sorry for me because I am still here. I am still standing. I might not have a marriage and family, a new car, a nice house, a successful career, a nice salary, a savings account, perfect health, or good credit, but I am still standing. I don’t have any of that and I don’t even have any bitterness about it. I am happy that there are others out there that do have at least some of that, some who do have all of it, and I am aware there are others who are like me.
Post Modern Apocalyptic level FAILURES. We have to face that fact before we can say to ourselves.
“Okay. I am a failure and I suck. So now what?”
For starters, you can now stop worrying about failing and being a failure. Now what, indeed.