My Worst F Word
It’s time to talk about the worst F word around — failure. Failure nurtures fear like nothing else for me, and I suspect I am in a majority. Success is great. Failure sucks. We all want things to work, right? Failure means it doesn’t. Who wants that? Failure is shameful and makes people feel bad, so most of us avoid it. Some of us avoid it so hard that we end up doing nothing or quitting before we finish, just so we are guaranteed to avoid failing.
I have unfinished projects beyond what my laziness wants to count. Now, I am pretty lazy, so a logical person might assume that number can’t be too high. But my laziness doesn’t want to count to 50 or 5 million, so that assumption is super wrong.
Not finishing things, means I have more time to start other things I won’t finish. And so it goes, until I moved a couple times in a couple years and was confronted with an overwhelming amount of unfinished projects. And that’s just the physical ones. Thanks to technology, I have exponentially more unfinished digital projects. Fortunately, I don’t have to move them, so I continue to pretend they aren’t there.
As you can see, this failure avoidance is downright unproductive. I was seeing examples in all aspects of my life, from quilts in various stages of completion to flowers never planted to writing novels to this blog. The weight of unrealized goals and dreams made failure seem less daunting. That allowed me to hear messages that failure might not be so bad.
Perfect Is The Enemy Of Done
I’m sure there were other lessons along the way, but the one I remember striking a chord is at a lecture by Elizabeth Gilbert in Pittsburgh. (If you live in Pittsburgh and don’t go to the lecture series at the Carnegie Library, you are missing out! I miss them so much!)
A good-enough novel violently written now is better than a perfect novel meticulously written never.
This lecture is similar, and I listen to it every so often to remind myself failure is okay.
Failure Is Okay
Any successful person has a slew of failures we don’t see. Success is what is broadcast to the world and all anyone cares about . Success is glorified. Meanwhile, success often stands on a mountain of failure.
Failure Is Information
So failure builds a structure on which to reach success. Doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Failure shows us what doesn’t work, where not to go, who not to date. Of course, we prefer not to waste time doing things that don’t work out, but failure is inevitable sometimes.
Recent research even found that embracing failure, feeling the emotions that come from it, and thinking about it is more useful. Shaking it off and making excuses likely leads to even more failure. It seems I was onto something when I wrote about admitting when you’re wrong. Then the most important part is digging into the feelings failure causes.
As I’ve heard so many times in meditation and other sources, lean into the emotion. Pretending it’s not there only leads to unresolved feelings and more failure.
Another Work In Progress
Some projects have no end. Failure won’t stop happening or hurting. I won’t always handle it well. All I can do is continue to improve. The completion date will be the same as my own completion date. Until then, I remind myself failure is better than doing nothing.