There’s this weird idea in modern society that failure is bad. It probably stems from this ferocious push for self-esteem that we’ve seen over the last decades. After all, self-esteem is all about measuring success and so naturally failure has become the enemy.
To put it simply, that’s stupid. Those that are too worried about self-esteem and not failing, aren’t going to be willing to try new things. And the entire point of life is about trying new things – particularly if you’re young. Here’s a fact that most young people will reject immediately. You haven’t figured life out yet. You don’t really know what you like yet and you don’t really know what will keep you happy into old age.
Those are things that you’re only going to discover as you move forward, try new things and adventure. And guess what, you’re not going to do any of those things if you don’t embrace failure as a real option.
‘Failing’ and ‘failure’ aren’t the same thing
A lot of people think they are. They think that when they fail they’re a failure. They couldn’t be more wrong. Anybody that excels started out failing. It doesn’t matter if they’re painters, writers, or one of those people that does trick shots at pool. They all couldn’t mix paints, sucked at grammar and ripped the pool cloth when they started out. It took them time to paint beautiful hands, write for okdisertations.com, or sink 18 balls with their forehead.
The biggest lie the modern world is telling is that greatness is born. It isn’t. It is made. Sure, it helps if you’re smart, talented and have rich parents. To think that these things make you great, however, is like thinking that reading lots of stuff makes you wise. Sure, it helps, but wisdom is a great deal more than having lots of information.
Otherwise the statement ‘you’re pretty stupid for a smart guy’ wouldn’t ring true so often.
Experiment while you can
Sound pretty convincing, right? Here’s the next thing to get a fire lit up under your… feet. The older you get, the harder it gets to experiment. The number of commitments that you’ve got in your life are going to multiply steadily. People are going to expect you to ‘get serious’ and ‘sort yourself out’ as you go on (I’m a writer, so I hear that kind of stuff all the time).
You don’t have that pressure yet when you’re younger. If you decide to go meditate alone, naked in the forest people will think you’re being kooky. If you decide to spend a week without seeing another person, locked up in your dorm and working on a project, people will think you’re driven.
When you try that in your forties, your spouse will complain, your children will hate you and your boss will probably fire you. Heck, even that’s not the case, the consequences will still be significant, as we’re expected to be ‘serious’ and ‘focused’ when we’re that old.
So use that! Use the fact that you’re young, that you’re free and that you can still do whatever you want. Sure, not all your experiments will work out, but that’s fine. They don’t need to. If 99 experiments fail and one succeeds phenomenally well, you’ll still be richer and more successfully than you can possibly imagine.
You don’t know what idea will be the one
In fact, that’s another good point. As you don’t yet know which is that idea that will make you rich, famous and beautiful (or just happy – which is better than all the other three put together) you’ve got to experiment. And the only way that you can do that, is by accepting that you are going to fail in a whole bunch of those experiments.
The road to success is lined with all of your failures. Everywhere there are wrecks of the things that didn’t quite work or blew up in your face. And sure, people might call you an idiot when it doesn’t work. That’s how they are. The moment you manage to find that one thing, however, then suddenly everybody is talking about how they always knew you had it in you. Suddenly, all those people that laughed about you behind your back are coming to you, bent at the waist, to tell you how they knew you always had it in you.
Each of your failures doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you the opposite of one. Each failure brings you close to that success, as each failure teaches you invaluable skills and insights that you otherwise would not have had.
If we knew which path led to success, all of us would be successful. That we’re not shows how difficult it is to know what is the right path and which are the right choices. For that reason, to get life right, you’ve got to accept that sometimes the choice you make is going to be the wrong one.
Even more importantly, instead of thinking that having made the wrong choice is an absolute disaster, you’ve got to then accept that this is a lesson that life has offered you. Sure, your startup has failed, your partner has left you and you’re in debt, but how can you use that to make you better? What did that startup teach you, who can you partner up with now, and how can you use that debt as motivation to push yourself forward?
So what are you going to be? An average mind? Afraid of failure and unwilling to throw yourself out there to make the best of life? Or are you going to be a great mind? Are you going to accept failure as a part of life and a lesson that can make you better and more?
For me, the choice is easy (it always has been). I take the road less taken, because when I look at the people who walk the known path, I see people I don’t want to be. And sure, I’ve failed a bunch of times. But there is still plenty of life left to live. One day soon I’ll have that breakthrough success.
And the only reason I’ll have it is because I’ll have all those failures at my beck and call to know what to do and what not to.