It’s at the top of our prayer point list – Failure be gone! Nobody wants to be associated with failure. A word that is synonymous for everything bad, everything that spells defeat and rejection and an inability to succeed. No one likes to fail. I certainly don’t. However, I strongly believe that failure can prove to be an ally contrary to what we think.I believe the reason most people fear to fail is not even due to the sinking feeling that accompanies it, neither is it the psychological setback it can induce. Rather, it’s all about the fear of what other people would think. How they would view us under the scrutiny of their myopic lenses.
So, you get served divorced papers out of the blues, and beyond being shocked, your greatest worry is what your family and friends will think of you. How they’ll be quick to conclude that you couldn’t make your marriage work.
It may be sitting for the same exam time and again, and being unable to pass it for some inexplicable reason. You who were once called “Senior” are now being mocked the same juniors who accorded you respect only yesterday.
Failure rattles us to our very core. It makes us question ourselves. It elicits crippling self-doubt and can lead to depression if deliberate efforts are not made to curb the gloomy feeling. I have failed a couple of times in life, and I know that feeling all too well.
A particularly frustrating one was a 100 level Chemistry course I had to retake twice before I could pass. I understood why I didn’t pass it the first time – I simply had no idea what it was all about. With the overcrowded lecture hall drowning out the voice of the lecturer, his words always sounded like Greek to me, coupled with the complex nature of the subject.
But, the second time I sat for the exam and failed yet again, I had no clue why. Maybe I underrated the course. Maybe I had a defeatist mentality, whatever. Bottom line was I had failed it again, and had to retake it (and continue retaking it if it need be) if I planned to fulfill my dreams of being a University graduate.
So I sat for the exam again in my final year. And. I. Passed. I did well, well above average. I had to pass it. I didn’t intend to spend an extra second than I had to in school after spending six years studying a five-year course, no thanks to incessant lecturers’ strike.
My final year project was another point of struggle for me. After all the bottlenecks and stress involved in sourcing materials to execute the project, getting it approved and eventually kicking it off, things went terribly wrong, and I was forced to jettison the entire project and begin a fresh process all over again. And this time around, it was a race against time as I was behind schedule.
It was grueling. My once chubby physique began to emaciate. Most people didn’t believe me when I attributed my drastic weight loss to the unrelenting demands of my project. There had to be more to it they maintained. Again, at the end of the day, I was able to surmount all the challenges I faced with the project and successfully saw it to an end.
We have been told over and over again that failure is not something we should be associated with, but I dare say a life without failure is uninspiring. Imagine looking back when you are 75 years old, and realizing that everything has been smooth sailing throughout the course of your life. What personal lessons would you have learnt? What unique experiences would you draw from? What would the story of your life sound like?
I know some people may reply with “I don’t have to learn or draw experiences from my own failure, I can always learn from other peoples'” The truth is that there are certain life tests we can only appreciate when we experience them firsthand. The journey through the storm, the discomfort and pain and ultimate triumph.
Failure shows us that we are fallible. It pushes us to try harder and demonstrate a strength that we would never have known we possessed had we not been jolted out of our comfort zone. It is a propeller, an eye-opener and an opportunity to gain more knowledge. Failure is a challenge.
Personally, I make sure to find ways to turn my failures into success. I never shy away from them even though the journey is never pleasant. It’s my way of “taking my power back.” For the few exams I have failed I made sure to rewrite and pass them, whether I would need them in the future or not.
For every rejection mail I have received from organizers of writing competitions or publishers, I make sure to keep sending my pieces to even more prestigious ones. And guess what? I have had a few success stories in this regard too.
I am not happy when I fail at anything. Anything at all, but I never allow the temporary setback to derail or stop me from trudging on in pursuit of my goals. I may cry, sulk for a while and even suffer mild depression, but I always, always come back stronger and better. It’s the reason I liken myself to the Phoenix.
What excites me the most about failing and finding the courage to make a success out of a seemingly bad situation is the fact that I’m going to have solid insights and stories to share with my children, and hopefully grandchildren when the time comes.
I will not be sharing only what I learnt from other people’s failures, I will be telling them my own “raw and uncut” truths about the unpleasant journeys I have navigated and how I came out victorious at the end of the day.
I’m not about to launch into examples of famous men and women in history who turned their failures around and became hugely celebrated successes all over the world, but, you see, as long as you don’t throw your hands up in the air and resign to defeat, failure is only a detour.
It’s not such a bad thing after all.