Failure IS an option

Some people say, “failure is not an option”.

Most times I think what they mean is that they can’t or don’t want to accept the result of what they perceive as a failure. They have in mind certain acceptable outcomes and no deviation can be tolerated.

I’ve been there. It’s not a great place to spend any time. Having your back against the wall with nowhere to go is hard.

But having an unrealistic expectation that you are never going to fail is even harder.

We’ve each been taught about the meaning of failure, whether directly or indirectly. I wonder, were you taught that failure was an enemy or a teacher? It makes a really big difference in how we see the world and our place in it.

And, what about success? Is success the opposite of failure? Do we listen to our inside voice or are we swayed by the opinions of others?

How do we define each of these words? And based on our definitions, how is our world altered?

And then there is this. Have I gained more from success or failure?

These all strike me as worthwhile questions to ask. For me, it’s been a valuable struggle to come to some conclusions. I’d like to share a few thoughts, in case you are struggling too.

When I was in high school I was an okay student and I thought my Math skills were decent and yet I failed one year. I had to go to summer school, which I certainly didn’t prefer. But I connected with the teacher, really learned the subject and was prepared for the next year. A real failure?

Fast forward a few years. I am staring downhill from the top of a black diamond ski trail. In case you’re not familiar with skiing, this is a trail for experts, which I was not. I thought to myself, I can do this, so down I went. Quite literally in fact. This one short trail produced all of my most epic wipe-outs. I mean spectacular, snow flying everywhere, unqualified disasters. Definitely a failure?

One more. My son, Tommy and I spent a weekend in the Adirondacks with the intention to hike one of the peaks called Three Brothers. We started pretty early in the morning and made our way up through blankets of rain and shrouds of mist. It was richly enjoyable spending time together. The hike though seemed like it took forever. Finally, we thought we’d made the summit, only to find a couple coming at us from what we learned was a higher elevation. We conferred with them. They took us a bit further up a trail and pointed to the distance. There was still much more to go to reach the peak. While I’m positive Tommy could have made it, I couldn’t. I’d have to content myself with having hiked up Two and a Half Brothers. For sure a failure, right?

Here’s what’s come to me.

Failure is inevitable, if what you mean by failure is not achieving a specific defined goal. If you open up failure and see it as a sacred teacher, you’ll see something valuable show up in your life. If you ask yourself what have I gained from this experience, you’ll encourage some extraordinary truths to surface.

I found a teacher who cared about me.

I created a sense of admiration for myself for trying something I suspected was beyond my limits.

And, I learned it’s not just about the destination or the summit. A truth was revealed to me that life is a beautiful journey, lived one step at a time.

I hope failure reveals truths to you too.

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4 Replies to “Failure IS an option”

  1. Amen to this! Failure is a matter of perception— can be seen as a great learning tool or as an opportunity for self- shaming. We choose how we respond!

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  2. That hike was an adventure and is a treasured memory! Definitely not a failure, despite not reaching the originally intended goal. Learnings were doled out by the mountains that day, but it was certainly the journey that was most important.

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    1. Such a fantastic day together. I love being able to look at a picture of you on the wall of my office and seeing the mountains behind you in the distance. Simply awesome. Glad it’s one of your treasures too.

      Like

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