On failure...

This was brought about by a simple question posed by another: "If you could do one thing, with the guarantee of success, what would it be?". The follow up question was "Why are you not doing it?". Many in comments reflected that there is no such thing as a guarantee of success.

One definition of failure: an event that does not accomplish its intended purpose.

Yeah, that happens a lot. To all of us.

It's often not a good thing. It's nothing we strive for consciously.

But is it *always* a bad thing?

Let us set aside for a moment the idea that failure is always a bad thing, and focus on what failure represents.

To fail, in the definition represented above, must first be preceded by a purpose of goal.

One definition of purpose: an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions.

Taking these two ideas together, I submit that, while there is no reward in failure, there should not necessarily be shame in it either.

A person who failed has a dream, that they attempt to make reality. Just the initiative to step out of the safe zone to try can be cause for at least an appreciative nod. How many of us have stuck our neck out for some purpose we deemed good enough? How many of us even have a purpose better than "work 40 for a paycheck"? These questions make me uncomfortable myself.

Failure does not have to be the end of a goal. It is a set back. Ask anyone who writes code for a living. You write, you compile, you test, you debug, and repeat. If failure ended every goal, we'd still be writing with sticks in the sand.

Giving up, on the other hand, has no reward, except for lessons learned on the path. I speculate that in giving up, we give a tacit nod to the idea that perhaps our goal was ultimately unworthy of the time and energy we put into it. This is another admission that gives me uncomfortable pause.

In my profile, I give a sentence to dreams, failure, and surrender. I think it's worth quoting here, despite the fact that it may be somewhat self serving: "I find that dreams are malleable, and even if left unachieved, the ride can still be entertaining and rewarding, even if heartbreaking and depressing."

In my past, I have tried to realise dreams that I felt were worthy. I have failed miserably in them, due to a number of reasons. Some of my own doing, some because people suck. I am included in the latter statement as well. In the end, I am the one who made the decisions that I did that led me to the failure, and eventual shelving of these dreams. In that surrender, I have learned that sometimes, even tenacity cannot make some things work. "All of your decisions are half chance. So are everybody else's". There is wisdom to be gleaned from that statement, more than it would appear. I leave the analysis of that as an exercise to the reader.

Someone has to make fries. Just remember, they may have big dreams that they wanted to fulfil as well. They may just have been "right place, wrong time", and had to let them go because of other decisions they made. They may have been unrealistic. They may have been inane and unworthy goals. If they had the initiative to *try*, they have been true to the human spirit.

Find a worthy goal. Grind at it until you succeed. Mine is currently be the best husband and father I can.


Lori Erickson said...




Jonathan said...

Interesting. I would add that many times my failures lead me into a different way for the next try. Sometimes my failures are better than had I succeeded. And sometimes I learn.

Good one, E.

Unknown said...

Man, I totally feel that... I know there have been many times when I have failed simply from not throwing myself in 100%. But there are also times that I have failed when I expended every last ounce of energy trying.

What gives me the hope to keep trying is that even in my failures, there is no condemnation. Not from you, not from my other friends, and not from God. It's that support that helps me to keep trying, and to step out to try new things.

Julia said...

Grreat reading this