Failure

Starting from the daily writing prompt on the Desk Community, the question/topic can be summarized as “Have you failed yet?” Wow. Seems so simple, but can also be rather deep.

Have you failed yet?

If I take even a moment to think about it, I got the “deep” meaning – and of course I’ve failed. I’ve failed a number of a times, some of them quite big, namely in failing other people.

But the thought that really struck me was, how often have I failed, because I refused to take a chance because of a possible failure? Those are, quite possibly, the most egregious of failures. Because those are failures to push yourself, to put yourself out of your comfort zone, and possibly grow from the experience and knowledge gained, specifically from that potential failure.

I’m certain that we all have those, with varying numbers and impact. It could be something as innocuous as taking the “easy road”, perhaps a school subject in which we excel naturally, rather than one we would have work harder, and more intently towards.

Perhaps, it’s an opportunity not taken – a business venture passed as being risky compared to the relative safety of a “certain” job – which really isn’t certain in many cases if you think about it. It’s the classic “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.

Maybe it’s a moment not taken speaking to someone after catching a glance and a smile at each other, in the checkout line, on a bus, at a restaurant, because “what if they were just being polite?” or “they couldn’t possibly want to talk to me”.

What if it’s those words you’ve thought of, minced over in your mind, repeatedly, that you intended to use to comfort or offer support to someone, only to never utter them? Again the self-doubt “What if that’s really not what they want or need to hear right now?”, or perhaps “Has the moment passed, and now I’ll just seem out of touch, or simply part of the crowd giving lip service?”.

Maybe it was that time, where you didn’t act because you were concerned or worried about what others might think of you, so you choose inaction over taking action that could, quite possibly, bring you joy. Or perhaps, at the very least, live and be in that moment, making memories, rather than dwell in self-consciousness and grow self-doubt.

Quite possibly, it’s that time, among so many others, where you had a thought, an idea, a concept, that could have a huge impact on what’s being discussed, but would, or could, sound so “out there” when first mentioned, that it would be mocked or laughed at. Or perhaps not feeling capable of expressing the mental image clearly enough to others that the full understanding couldn’t be reached, or the application wouldn’t be clear enough to be understood, or perceived. And then, after the fact, when someone else mentions that self-same idea, either within minutes or months later, as a “we could or should have done x instead…”, where x is the idea you had. Responding with an “I’d thought of that, but…” doesn’t quite seem sincere or truthful.

These are just some examples I’ve come up with, from my own experiences. Typically, there are so many more than one instance of each example I can think of, and these are just off the top of my head. I could dig deeper, try to remember better, but given that these moments are in the past, all that would cause is more self-doubt, and of course, very likely, regrets.

So what is the takeaway from this? At least, what’s mine? There quite a few tidbits that can be taken here and there. Such as complete strangers will likely not notice, or remember. And even if they do, 2, 5, 20 years from now. Do they know you? Does what someone you don’t know think of you matter? Should it? Yes, of course, what if they end up interviewing you for a job you really want years later? Odds are, neither of you will recognize each other from a disconnected event.

Another is that life should be experienced, and part of the experience is forming it yourself – so make it a good one! Or one to which you want to be an integral party, not simply a part of. Determine the outcome you want to happen from a moment, and try to make it happen. If it doesn’t, you’ll know that it didn’t because you tried, and will learn from it, and NOT because you didn’t try, so “no harm done”. No! BAD! OF COURSE HARM DONE, especially to yourself! Take the opportunities to learn and grow. Who knows, might make a hell of a story to tell at the next opportunity.

“You forced me out of my comfort zone and that’s been good for me.” -Mark Feuerstein, playing Hank Lawson on Royal Pains

Ultimately, it’s most likely best to be remembered for being a someone who did things, who tried, even if they failed, than to merely be a background character in life. Do you remember the couple drinking coffee in that episode of [Insert random show here], or do you remember [insert actor/character’s name here] instead? Yeah, I thought as much. Same here. (“Seinfeld” and “Jerry/George/Kramer/Elaine” in my case). Maybe the expression “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” need a corollary; “If you don’t learn to fail, you fail to learn”. Doesn’t have that catchy ring to it though.

So… time to head out into the world again, and start having some good failures from which I can learn.

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