Thursday, May 5, 2011

Radical Failure

Failure is such a harsh word. Often bathed with a patina of tears, it tends to hit deep in the gut when lobbed at us by others, or even ourselves. Nobody wants to fail. We do nearly anything we can to avoid it, and even just the appearance of it. Though, ironically, we are often the first to affix its taunting label to ourselves.

But in spite of all the anguish it delivers, failure is actually a very constructive state. It doesn't feel so constructive when we're face down in the dirt, having just been thrown off the horse, but it is. Failing at something teaches us what doesn't work and forces us to face the plain truth of it. The interesting thing is, if we follow the advice handed down for generations, and "get right back up on that horse," we lose out on an important opportunity. Success may well be an unpolished gold nugget staring back at us from the dirt, but if we hop up on the horse too quickly, we may miss the shiny bit beckoning to us.

Let's be clear though, shall we? By failure, I don't mean a temporary challenge in what we set out to do. Sure, practice makes perfect and we shouldn't give up the first, second, or even hundredth time we aren't successful at something. But I'm talking about true failure, or more precisely, the failure of a situation to meet our needs. When it becomes obvious that something isn't working, perhaps it's best to take a step back and re-evaluate the environment, and ourselves. Is the universe trying to tell us something? Would it be best for us to take a step back and consider a divergent path? Having the courage to face, and even welcome, failure is the trick.

Life has a way of working out if we heed its quiet messages to us along the way. Failure, success, and crisis; all three of these are signposts that seek to guide our journey. But each takes a mindful spirit to interpret. If we are too busy fighting life and attempting to control it, we create a cacophony of confusion that causes us to  miss the messages. We end up spinning our wheels and circling back around, time and time again.

The failures in my life have not been pleasant affairs and each has left me a bit more raw than the last. Yet, they have guided me and taught me important lessons along the way and in the end, I am thankful for them all.  I don't yet throw parties to welcome them, mind you. But I do hope to develop the courage to experience radical failure, for in each lies a gift.

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