Oh, boy. You’ve done it now. You’ve failed. Absolutely spectacularly failed. You want to die.
How will you go on? You’re afraid. You might make another mistake. You might be misunderstood. People might even laugh at you. There’s no point. You should give up, cut your losses now while you still have some face left to save.
Sound familiar? Anyone who’s failed at something (in other words, all of us) has gone through a similar thought process. We imagine failure to be the worst possible outcome. We strive for excellence, and instead we nose dive on the opposite end of the spectrum. We ask ourselves how we could have been so bad. We’re embarrassed because others are watching. Sometimes, we conclude that it’s best to just move on, that we should forget we ever tried. Why bother, we think, if we’re just going to screw up again?
We think failure is a negative thing. If I were to tell you it’s actually the opposite, that you should be grateful for and even delight in your mistakes, you might understandably ask, “How can I rejoice in failure?”
Failure is your greatest teacher.
We humans have this peculiar belief that we should be good at something on our first attempt. It’s as if we expect to be infused with the whole of human knowledge and experience from birth. But the reality is that any time we try something new, we’re babies all over again, stumbling around with stubborn and incapable limbs.
You weren’t born knowing how to read. You had to struggle with the alphabet, had to painstakingly memorize each symbol along with the sound it represents. You then had to follow along in countless picture books, sounding out the syllables in simple words, stuttering as you stumbled over sentences that might as well have been written in a foreign language. Only through years of trial and error did you eventually achieve fluency.
As the old cliché goes, you have to learn to crawl before you can learn to walk. Each mistake you make is a rung on the ladder of success, another object lesson that will refine your process over time. Your mistakes are precisely what teach you to excel at what you do.
Failure encourages you to be better.
Often, you catch yourself in a mistake and look backwards. “Why do I keep failing?” you ask. “When am I ever going to get this right?” But the problem is not that you’ve made a mistake, but that you’ve used it to gaze in the wrong direction.
Failure should inspire you to look forward. It should not be seen as a roadblock, keeping you penned in to an inferior mode of existence, but as a stepping stone on the way toward something better. Failure should be a source of hope, a way for you to gauge your success over time.
The person who avoids mistakes stagnates. He never grows because he refuses to push forward. Mistakes indicate that you’ve entered uncharted territory, that like the world’s greatest explorers, you have an opportunity to navigate something that was hitherto unknown.
Failure makes you humble.
It’s easy to be arrogant when you’re good at what you do. You’re often tempted to look down your nose at others who haven’t progressed as far as you, to regard with disdain the works of your “inferiors.”
How humbling it is then, when you’re forced to confront your own mistakes. They ground you. They remind you where you came from, that you’re human and that you’re no better than anybody else.
Failure makes it easier to relate to others.
The more you embrace your mistakes, the more you realize you’re like everybody else. And the more you realize you’re like everybody else, the easier it is to relate to everybody else. You begin to realize you’re only part of the whole, a single cell in the collective organism of humanity. The more you identify with others, the more you can operate in sync with them. This makes the world better, for how much more perfect is a body when all of its parts strive for the benefit of the whole?
Don’t fear failure. Revel in it!
Failure is a prize. It is our mentor and our encourager. It is the journey by which we can achieve everything we’ve ever dreamed of, limited only by how much time we’re given and how far we’re willing to travel.
Embrace failure. Revel in it. Make mistakes and make them often. Your future self will thank you.
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