Being a failure is not to be confused with being a loser. One is awesome and the other sucks.
I was a big time loser once. I could play the losing game with the best of them. There was no plan to my life so I drifted, I remained constantly depressed, I spent the major part of my mental energies on video games and movies and laughing at other people. I thought I was cool though, with my shoulder-length locks and a goofy little goatee and the swagger of a kid who tries too hard to hide the fact that he doesn’t know what the fuck he wants out of life. And I stuck it out in engineering because it was an honorable, difficult, adult profession according to my elders, so it sort of justified my loserdom. Can’t be an engineer and be a loser, right? Wrong.
These days I’m a failure, training hard to be an epic failure, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I fail as often as I can and keep looking for novel ways to expose my inept ass to failure. I fail and fail and fail some more until my ego screams at my stupidity and begs me to slow down and embrace my inner mediocrity and stop subjecting myself to the stinging lashes of failure so often. And then I fail some more.
Because as counter-intuitive as it may sound, failing is simply the best path to success.
There is a myth about success which we find convenient to believe – that some people just have what it takes. The truth is that most successful people have fundamentally failed enough times to finally figure out how not to fail anymore.
Thomas Edison designed 1,000 bulbs which didn’t work before finally lighting the planet. Henry Ford went bankrupt five times before unleashing those horseless chariots. Newton sucked at school and failed at running a farm but unlocked the secrets of motion. Winston Churchill was defeated in every public office role he ran for before becoming the PM. More than 1,000 restaurants rejected “Colonel” Sander’s KFC chicken recipe. Toyota did not hire Soichiro Honda so he started his own automobile business. Van Gogh sold one painting in his entire life to a friend. 27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’ first book. The Wright brothers failed several times before finally getting one of their machines airborne. Monet’s signature impressionism was laughed at by the Paris elite during his lifetime. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. And on and on.
Unlike the people above, there are many of us who tend to look at failure as something devastating, something beneath us, all so we can protect our egos. We’ll often remain in a state of do-nothing comfort, safe in our narrow-minded loserdom, shunning and shitting on anything slightly risky or unconventional because it threatens to expose us to ourselves.
Fuck the ego. Fail hard, fail often, fail fast, keep learning from the failures, and keep on moving. After a while the ego will adjust as well.
It’s now gotten to a point where I feel odd if everything is running smoothly in my life. Because that means I’m parked somewhere inside my comfort zone. And that’s not where growth happens. So I fabricate failure, and the best way to do this is to set goals for myself which are beyond my capabilities and out of my reach. And then I scramble to get there.
Aim at the sun, and you may not reach it; but your arrow will fly far higher than if aimed at an object on a level with yourself. – J. Howes
Often I fall short of these goals. For instance, I started this blog with the goal of writing a post a day for a month. I managed only 26, which is technically a failure. A while ago I set a goal to do 100 daily pushups. The deadline for that goal has passed now, and I’m still at 50. Failure? Sure. I set a goal to design 5 web sites for the year. After learning HTML/CSS from a couple of books and finishing all coding lessons on Codeacademy, I realized I didn’t enjoy programming that much, so I set the goal aside. Failure? Yup.
But each of these ‘failures’ has resulted in personal growth. They have helped me understand myself that much better. And even though I failed, I now have a blog, I do 50 more pushups today than I used to, and I could make an income designing websites if some freak brain accident made me enjoy that sort of thing.
The loser approach, i.e., I must do it once and I must do it right or not do it at all, is a sure path to doing nothing of worth. The other approach, i.e., I will put in all my energies but factor in the chance of failing, learn from it when it happens, not let it deter me and keep my ego out of it, adjust my approach accordingly, and keep on moving, is much more conducive to building a life that you want.
So far, so good. I have a long way to go, and much to learn and do still, but I hope the road ahead is filled with lots of failure. Someone like me thrives on those sort of kicks in the ass to keep myself going. Because failing, once one gets past the negativity that the traditional definition of the word conjures, once one learns how to channel and harness it, is a tremendously positive force.