Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Failure Isn't Your Fault

I succeed occasionally. I fail very often.

Most of the time when I fail, I let go of it pretty quickly. It's a learning experience, and a stepping stone to future successes.

Sometimes though, I beat myself up. I tell myself that I'm stupid, and I suck, and I should probably just stop breathing.

Failure means nothing.

What matters is how you react to failure.

And that's a choice you make.

Success and failure don't control your emotions. You do. Sure, succeeding generally makes you happier and failure... not so much. But failing a lot means you're trying, a lot. And that's what defines you. The fact that you push yourself, persevere, and refuse to surrender. Many folks experience a failure and immediately hide in a corner with a bottle of whiskey. You do not.

The whiskey is your reward.

Or the cupcake, or pizza, or ten hour Lord of the Rings marathon. Whatever. I don't want to presume that we're all alcoholics.

A lot of the times when we start something new - an exercise routine, hobby, instrument, or online sponge diving class - we have grand dreams of being awesome at it. We usually project our minds to a future of rewards, fame, and fortune (or at least one of those things). Usually we're pulverized in the face with failure. You pluck that first chord on the guitar and it sounds like ass. And there's so many chords! You go to the gym and realize that you have a tough time lifting the pen just to sign up. It can be very discouraging.

Are you kidding me? My hands don't move that way!
Photo cr. Marc Ryan

Many folks give up. They stop playing, they stop exercising, they stop trying. They come up with an excuse.

"It's not for me."

"I don't really have the time."

"I don't even live close to the ocean. When would I ever dive for sponges??"

I know, because I've been guilty of the same. I actually started to learn the guitar. I had musician friends who gave me free lessons. And I stopped doing it. Never mind that I'm doing a million things and finding the time actually is challenging. The fact is, I don't care what my excuse is. Guitar is at the top of my list of things I need to start doing again.

And that, to me, is the real failure: Giving up. I don't care that doing bar chords on an acoustic is, like, really hard (but easy on an electric!). I knew that with practice I could do it. Neither did I delude myself that I would one day be an amazing musician. I wanted to learn it for the same reason I learn anything else. To make myself a more talented and better rounded individual.

Better rounded..... with vices.

So I will do it again, no matter how impossible it is to find the time. Hell, I get up while it's still dark out to do deadlifts every morning. Maybe after that challenge ends, I'll become the crazy guy who plays guitar at 6 in the morning. You know: that guy. Actually, I think I just made that up. Even crazy people like to sleep.

That's one failure I don't forgive myself for: quitting. If I run a race and don't do as well as I'd hoped, I'll look forward to the next super fast race. But if for some stupid reason I stopped running, I would legitimately hate myself forever. I mean, unless I lost my legs in a bizarre sponge diving accident. Then I would learn to run on my hands. Or maybe those cool robot prosthetics. Sweetsville!

I'll admit though, this attitude is the hardest to maintain when it comes to one area: Love. When a relationship fails, it's very hard not to take it personally. I mean, some folks blame the other party. Those folks are assholes. Because if you just say, "well I was awesome but they sucked," then you've learned nothing. And you'll keep being a douchebag forever.

However, most healthy folks look at what they did wrong when a relationship falters or fails. And that's where it's easy to get in a spiral of self-hatred. That feeling of inadequacy. That you will never find love or happiness. That you don't deserve love. And those are all shitty feelings.

They're also bullshit. We all deserve love, and need it. Otherwise we have no reason to be.

Even these critters deserve love.

90% of relationships fail. How many boy- and/or girlfriends do most of us go through in our lives? That first awkward high school kiss isn't meant to be a bond for life. Although at the time you sure feel like it does. And when that first relationship ends over Facebook, you play sad songs with the three chords you know on the guitar for months afterwards. And then it happens again. Many of us become jaded. We either eventually settle for someone who doesn't bring us joy, or worse we just give up altogether and die in an alleyway covered in empty whiskey bottles.

Choosing to learn from that failure and moving is hard, really hard. But that's the only way you grow and become stronger. And as long as you can do so positively, without self-reproach, and without blaming someone else for your failure, then you will thrive. Every time you try again, it will be better. Love is a skill, just like picking up heavy things, or diving in the ocean and looking for sponges. Sure, failure bites deep, but you can get better at love and happiness the same as you can get better at anything else.

It's a choice to never give up.

Failure has nothing on you.

CHOOSE not to surrender.

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