Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Rethinking Failure

I just read a post where a friend announced that she was officially divorced as of a couple of days ago. Underneath this people commented sending love, or condolences, or thoughts. One person though, made a comment that included the words "you did not fail" and for some reason it bothered me. The comment was perfectly fine, because it went on to say people change and that sometimes a divorce is for the best, but the word "fail" hit me in the gut. Why, if something ends in a way that we did not expect, do we see that as a failure? Why can't we, instead, see it as an opportunity?
"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." Henry Ford.
I've been thinking a lot about failure lately. The harshest thing I ever say to myself (and trust me I say a lot of harsh things to myself), is that I am a failure. I do it all the time. But, I know that I'm really not. My perception of myself in terms of success or failure is 100%  a reaction to how society defines success and failure, and that, frankly, is RIDICULOUS!!!

I've done a lot of really cool things in my life, and have achieved a lot of goals. Sure, some things have failed, or not worked out quite the way I had hoped. But does that mean that I am a failure? Or does that simply mean that it's time to try something new, something different, something as yet undefined or unseen?
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston Churchill

Still, we've trained ourselves to think that "failure is not an option" (Gene Kranz) and to see any type of failure as an indication that we, ourselves, are complete failures. That to fail in one thing in life means that you simply haven't been working hard enough, trying hard enough, being good enough. But the reality is, that not everything succeeds. Nor does one success indicate everything will be a success, just as one failure does not indicate a life full of failures. Paulo Cuelho writes:

"Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure."

I don't completely agree with him here. I believe the fear of failure is the thing makes even trying almost impossible sometimes. But I don't think you always know what you want from life, because that constantly changes as you try . . . succeed . . . try. . . fail. I have to remember that. That's where I want to rethink  my own concept of failure. Failure does not mean an end, but simply a new beginning for perhaps a new, and better dream. Or maybe it's the same dream just approached in a different way.

I'm tired of beating myself up for my own perception of failing. I'm tired of allowing my idea of success to come from outside of me--having a title, making more money, being traditionally published, winning awards, etc. etc. I'm tired of letting my fear of failure stop me from even trying.

I want to set my own goal line, and if I don't reach it, well then I'll fail spectacularly and move onto something else.

Here's to a life of trying, perhaps failing, and trying again until I've reached my own goals.  It's time for me to leap into the unknown, with the hopes that I have wings to help me soar, but the faith that if I fail, I can always bounce back up.

Anyone want to join me?