Growing up, I was very cautious. I was a book worm, did well in school and music, and stayed away from sports. I was gifted and really good at what I did. I never really failed at anything until college.
Having never failed, there was a constant pressure to keep juggling everything. I couldn’t let anything slip, that was unacceptable and not an option. Every once in a while, life decided to toss in another ball to juggle.
Then it all collapsed.
I had a very rough semester and ended up failing all my classes. For someone who had been called smart my entire life, this was devastating. This was everything I had built my identity around. Failing meant I wasn’t smart.
I had a bit of a mental breakdown. Failing all of my classes- dropping one ball- made me lose focus and everything shattered. I struggled at work, in my relationships, with my health…
One failure led to another and I lost everything.
Failing was always my biggest fear. But it happened.
Here’s what I learned hitting rock bottom:
Failure is Freeing
As much as I had built up how awful failure was, it was quite anti-climactic. I had a feeling of, “That’s it? That’s not so bad.”
Once I had lived my worst fear of failure, I realized how silly it really was to be so afraid of something that wasn’t that important. As I was about to learn in the following months and years, there are worse things in the world to fear- should you fear at all.
I suddenly felt liberated. I had all of these expectations and things I was “supposed to do.” That all fell away knowing that I was still loved and supported by my family, that I had other options to consider and that I could make the choice, rather than following what I had been told my whole life.
The first failure was the hardest. But after it happens once, you realize you will live through it and it’s not so terrifying.
Failure Is Opportunity
Failing all of my classes gave me a change to stop and re-evaluate. It allowed me to see that I didn’t have to continue in this field of study just to “prove myself.” Failure allowed me to explore other options that were a better fit for me.
It was like an escape route for something I didn’t want to do anyways. I already was not happy in my classes, and it obviously wasn’t working if I failed. It was an opportunity to explore majors I had never previously considered.
For another, it might have shown them how much they loved their field and minimized distractions, allowing them to focus more and seize more opportunities.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison
No matter what it is that you have failed- school classes, a business, relationships, it is an opportunity to get your head out of the sand, evaluate what happened and try again. It’s a way to move past your current self to a better version of yourself.
Who doesn’t want to be a better person? In order to improve we need to keep moving forward, sifting through what doesn’t work in order to find what does.
Failure is Growth
This is similar to my last point in that failure is an opportunity to learn and improve. We can figure out what went wrong. We can try again.
Failure is inevitable. We all do it, time and time again. Unless we never take risks. When we don’t take risks at all, we become stuck. We do the same thing day in and day out, because it’s safe.
We stay in a job because it’s safe. We stay in a relationship because it’s safe. We put up with an awful lot for our safety. However, we get unhappy in those situations.
Safety is a terrible reason to do something. We should do something because we love it, it makes us happy, it makes the world a better place. Very rarely are any of those safe. They all involve risk and will inevitably involve failure.
Keep the reasons, change the method. Failure is a chance to study and try again. We will likely fail again, but we can “fail better.”
Failure Does Not Define Me
“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”
― Brené Brown
Just because I failed does not mean I am a failure. I am a lot of things, but a failure is not one of them. I am a daughter, a sister, a writer, a bookworm, etc. These are what define me.
I may fail in some of these aspects. There are times I am a terrible sister. However, there are also times I am a good sister. The consistent part is that I am a sister. How I’m doing at the moment can fluctuate.
Failing all of my classes didn’t mean I am not smart. Luckily, I went to a school that recognized there was something else going on and I was required to meet with the school psychologist in order to register for the next round of classes.
They knew the problem isn’t that I’m not smart, but that there were LOTS of other things I was dealing with at the time. I failed classes because I was dealing with other things rather than focusing on school work. I was distracted.
I may be a lot of things, but a failure is not one of them. In fact, I’ve become more successful being open to the possibility of failure and taking risks.
Risks are terrifying and it’s hard to deal with the unknown. I still play it safe more often than I like to admit.
Afterward, I see it for what it really was: a missed opportunity. There was a chance to do something great and I let is slip by with some excuse of another.
Failure Is Not Trying
“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
― Truman Capote
Turning down opportunities and playing the game of life “safely” is really the only way to fail.
There is no growth, there is no variety, there is no success. Bruce Lee once said, “In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”
I have recently quit working full time in order to pursue my career as a writer. This has shocked and impressed so many people around me. Others tried to talk me out of it, because I wasn’t already self-sufficient in my writing.
Taking this risk on myself is the best thing I have ever done. Yes, I may be struggling financially, but I am making it by. I may still be in the early stages of growth, but I’m making progress.
Will there come a point where I have to start working full time again and put writing on the back burner again? Most likely.
This doesn’t mean I have failed. I may not be making enough to earn a living as a writer, but that won’t always be the case. In the long run, working full time doesn’t mean failure.
While I may have to work full time again to earn money, you can bet I will quit once I am back on my feet.
While I need the time to focus on my writing and building skills I need, I also need resources. So I am bouncing back and forth between the two until I reach self-sufficiency.
Failure is hard and uncomfortable. It’s hard to look at something we loved and watch it crumble.
However, this is only the first step. Each step may appear to be another failure, but it still takes you closer to your goal, whatever that may be.
Take some time to step back and look at what went wrong, as well as what went right. Try again. You will find joys and successes along the way that will make it worth another try, another failure.
Success rarely comes on the first try. Keep going.
You are not a failure and you are capable.
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