During my 26 years on Earth so far I failed at many things. At love, at school at being a football player, at being a good grandson, even at being friendly. I’m still failing at plenty of things — at getting my driver’s license, at facing my worst fears, at communication. But there’s inner truth in every failure, and that’s what this is all about.
Every morning that we get out of bed and face another day is a win. Every day we score many countless wins as we work, do things we enjoy, or prove useful to others in small ways. We never celebrate these tiny victories. We take them for granted.
In life we win much more than we fail, but our mind likes to focus on our defeats. Even if we’re not the “But the glass is half empty” type. Defeat invites doubts and anxiety. It tramples pride.
I am wary of the “never give up” attitude, or the “get up and fight harder” approach to failure. Sometimes giving up is victory. Sometimes running away is winning. Willful defeat can be better in the long run than reckless victory.
Failure can be a wonderful sentiment once you have fully absorbed it. Once the confusion and the disappointment begin to fade, failure sharpens the world around us and often gives the familiar a new warmth. If the only benefit of failing is the chance to return back to the safety of your own inner island, then failure is worth the trouble.
Without failing every now and then, our life would be worse than it is. Few things manage to return us to ourselves like failure does. Like a handful of ice-cold water that breaks against the still-sleepy cheek in the morning, failure awakes. It creates the opportunity for us to consider our values and our needs.
We often fail not because we are not good enough, but because we do what the time has not yet come for us to do. Or sometimes, because we do what we think is right for us, or what we think will make us happy. Sometimes we fail before we actually fail – we fail at seeing deeply enough.
When I fail at something, I feel bad about it. I’m a perfectionist. But I analyze my mistakes, try to understand why I failed, and if I still want that thing, I try again.
When I fail at something twice, I feel awful about it. But I give myself time, and I try to understand whether failing at that thing wasn’t in fact better for me. I believe that there are times in life when, despite all your hard work, you have to fail because you have to fail.
It’s then that failure brings you inner truth and helps you understand yourself better — your strengths, your weaknesses, your character.
Sometimes failing is good enough. Necessary even. If I hadn’t failed at being a football player, I would not be a writer today, and there would be no boy with a hat. And if I hadn’t failed at love, I wouldn’t have the chance to come across it again in newness and in wonder.