Failure sucks. Success is glamorous. Therein starts the problem.
Everyone wants the mythical “Midas touch” — everything they touch should turn to gold. We want a magic spell to success. We spend days and nights dreaming about being the next “icon,” the next celebrity. All fantasies of the future revolve around earth shattering success trailing behind us wherever we go. That’s all we can talk about all the time. But there’s a catch.
We want only success. We loath failure.
Which is why we need to talk about failure. And when I say “talk,” I mean literally. We need to have conversations around failure — with friends, on social media, in events, in public talks, everywhere. We need to break the taboo around talking about failure, because unless we talk about failure, we will never learn how to deal with it.
Success is Beautiful. Failure is Ugly
We love success. We admire successful people because they are successful. We are ready to forego the many faults, traits and other flaws in people if they are successful as per our parameters. We set our goals, our ambitions, our to-dos, our hopes, our dreams, our idols, our heroes based on success.
If we think that fashion and/or Hollywood or money is the most glamorous thing of today’s age, we are wrong. It is success. Success is glamorous. It is perceived to be so, it is built to be so, it is made to be so. Eventually, whatever we glorify or drool over in life is because of our perception that it is successful.
And that is a good thing. But it is not the only thing in life. That is the blind spot we need to address.
Failure is ugly, it is pathetic, it makes us feel like losers. It makes us feel like everything good we believe about the world and ourselves is a lie. It makes us wonder if we can ever get out of this stink-hole, and if the world can ever be what we really wanted it to be. And this, unfortunately, is a far, far, far bigger reality of life than success is or ever can be. We hate failure, even though it makes up for a big chunk of our lives. What is worse, we neither want to talk about failure, nor do we want to publicly admit that we hate failure.
Stop Judging & Shaming People & Yourself for Failing
The problem with failure is not just failure. Failure is only 25% of the problem with failure.
The bigger problem with failure is the sense of shame, self loathing, self hating and judgement that comes with it. This becomes a compounded problem because we, as a society, loath failure, and judge anyone who faces failure. We may talk big about how failure is the first step to success, but we don’t altogether live up to it when we see someone failing. The heavy sense of judgement of failure is the biggest hurdle to getting out of failure.
The unexpressed feelings of low self-esteem, feeling like you have hit a wall, feeling like nothing can ever look up for you again, and the sense of dread about what other people think of, is the bigger reason for suffering caused due to failure.
When I refer to “failure” I mean failure in any aspect of life — not just career-wise. Relationship failures are just as devastating as career failures.
There is a certain stigma attached to failure. And that is the real problem with failure.
We all know, theoretically, that failure is a part of success. But we don’t live it in practice when we see someone or ourselves facing failure.
The Episodic Idea of Success And Failure
The biggest flaw in perceptions around failure and success are the episodic ideas of both — both are seen in short term, and labelled as one or the other, without much thought. But, that label sticks and may do a lot of damage than good.
The reality is that we face success as well as failure every single day.
The unnecessary weightage given to both success and failure is one of the reasons why we obsess over both — either for good or for bad. Every day we encounter situations, things, people, happenings, which count as “success” or “failure” or both! But this is ignored 99% of the times.
This stuff of our everyday lives is just as important as that eventual “yes” or “no” from someone or the award or business deal or admission or anything else we have been seeking.
The lead weight given to a single object identified, and the desperate pursuit of the same, makes failure feel like a big blotch on our record, our image, our reputation, our credibility and perhaps our own ideas of ourselves. Whereas if we remove that lead weight, simply work towards what we need to, and have awareness of the tiny success and failures we meet every day, the accomplishment or otherwise of the goal will be just one more incident in the day, not a catastrophic happening we need to deal with.
Failure IS Important
No, I am not on a mission to glorify failure. But I am not shy to say that failure IS IMPORTANT.
Some of the best people I know became some of the best people I know because they faced certain failures in lives and used those failures to transform, and become better people.
Let me brutally honest here — unending success often gets to people’s heads and turns them into snobs we all hate to meet.
Failure is not beautiful, but it is sometimes necessary to make you see the stark reality that you keep missing — be it being insensitive to someone’s feelings, not giving time to your health, not being able to make commitments, not being able to make changes in your life, or anything else that is needed to catapult you into the next phase of your life. Failure is the bitter medicine we all need to take once in a while. No, we don’t like it, but it forces us to rethink, re-strategize, re-evaluate everything in our lives.
Failure brings far more depth to us than success ever can.
Failure can be a launchpad for the next level of success and fulfillment if used to discover our own blind spots — flaws in our value system, flaws in our methods of working, or flaws in anything else that is holding us back from experiencing life at its best.
But, What Happens When We Talk About Failure…
Eleven years ago, I had hit a wall. I could be called “successful” using worldly parameters but I did not qualify myself as that. I felt I was beyond repair.
But when I talked about it to people, I could feel pity dripping from their every word. When I told some people that I am going for a meditation retreat, their response was “Is everything alright?” — meaning, was I going “berserk” or still “normal”?
That meditation retreat was the best decision of my life. It changed me as a person in ways I could never have imagined. But I was only constantly shamed for being spiritual and for the life happenings that got me there.
I see people doing the same today, maybe in different forms & words.
I see people constantly only wanting to talk about their successes; no one wants to even admit they have ever failed at anything in life. Isn’t that a bit unrealistic? Yet, that is how our society remains wired. We want to talk about the pretty parts of life, but not the unsavoury sides of life.
No, we don’t need to be in the victim-mode. But admitting a problem is the first step to solving it. And all failure is essentially just that — an unsolved problem.