Last week, I was talking to a friend about how her son has a really, really hard time with failure. It is tough for him to even accept that when he is 6 years younger than the people he is competing against and has virtually no chance at winning, just, you know, logistically speaking; he still beats himself up for not achieving the impossible. He is such a great kid (today’s blog is dedicated to him, actually), but he is just so convinced that even though he is adorable and smart and genetically predisposed to outstanding looks and funny and pretty much number one at everything (most of the time) that he tries, he still feels not good enough when he comes in second. We were talking about how hard she tries to make him understand that he is a rockstar no matter what, and that even his trying is remarkable; but from his perspective — nothing less than perfection is acceptable. We both agreed this is going to be a hard road for him, but that he, like all of us do in life; will learn that failure is literally an inevitability of living both a conscious and an active life.
While we were talking I told her to tell her son that I had so many failures in life, that I couldn’t even count them and then that got me stoked, so I started making a list of everything I’ve totally sucked at in life and could not stop laughing and feeling proud of all I had tried. One of my proverbial “claim to fame” failures…and clearly, one of the most remarkable ones, was literally being fired from a volunteer job. That is right; I was actually, at the age of 15-fired from a volunteer job for talking too much. Apparently, even my free services were not wanted there! What a painful experience that was. I cried and ranted and felt totally victimized; and to be fair the decision probably wasn’t entirely fair for a kid just trying to make it in the volunteer world — but today; I look at that and laugh. It was ridiculous, and now I get to make people feel better when they are down on themselves by saying, “But I bet you never got fired from a volunteer job!” It always makes the other person feel better; and just that in and of itself is worth the painful experience.
I never thought I would say this; but I love failure. I can’t get enough of it. If I look back at the trajectory of my life, I’ve failed at basically everything except like three things. And those three things, I’m so damn good at, and so grateful for being so good at; that I don’t even need to fail at them to appreciate them. How awesome is that? Some people are good at thousands of things; I’m good at about three — and thankfully, my humanity and marked imperfection as a human being has given me some pretty remarkable (secondary) traits that I would not have or be able to share with the world if I was good at everything I did.
If you fail a lot, then you can boast that you carry these amazing traits too!
Three Reasons Why Failing at Life Makes you Awesome:
1. You are an Empathetic Rockstar.
That is right. Empathy. Empathy is totally like THE MOST awesome thing ever invented. It is the ability to feel with another human being who is in pain; to connect, to engage and to let them know they aren’t alone. How cool is that? I mean what else really matters in life except for making other people feel good and making the world we live in feel more connected and less isolating? I can personally say that every failure I have had has made me not only a better person, but a less judgmental, more open and more compassionate human being. Had I not had those experiences (and continue to); I wouldn’t know what something feels like enough to be able to look another human being in the eye and go..oh I got this — you are not alone and, by the way, you are not crazy and all of your feelings are valid. Oh- and you can also expect to feel this, that and this, so don’t be scared if and when you do!
Now, for me, being empathetic is great, because, you know, that is what I do for a living; but for you it can be really great too. It can bring you more joy and comfort and connection than you ever thought possible. And it can create much needed meaning out of feeling that you are all alone in your failures and in life.
2. You Never Have to Be Bored.
When you win at everything, life gets so damn boring (I’m guessing lol), but seriously. What is there to do if everything you do works? I could see how if you already know ahead of time that if you try something you will win or be the best, there would be very little to look forward to in life – that you would already know the outcome BEFORE it happens. If you fail at a lot of things, how fun to find out that sometimes you WON’T fail; that the story doesn’t have to end “here,” and that you get to always be up for trying things and be okay that you aren’t perfect at them. It also makes life totally interesting when you find an unexpected success and get to feel utterly proud that you figured out how to do your own laundry the right way at age 43, or that you could figure out your electric blanket actually had to be plugged into the wall, because you know it is electric and all (not that I know anyone like this). Life is systematic enough. You do not need the structure of perfection; you will have nowhere to turn, nowhere to go, and plus, it makes you totally inaccessible to like 98% of the population to always win — so, yeah, failing makes you way more fun than being number one; at least in my humble opinion.
3. You Have a Really Unique Perspective on the Meaning of Life.
It is so awesome to have the gift of knowing what matters in life. Striving is so cool — and I do it too; but I also like to stare at my dogs , eat a chip here and there and sleep in sometimes. And, I’m betting, if you are a person who has failed a lot at life, so do you. I wish I was disciplined enough to wake up every day at 4:35 AM, meditate, run 9 miles, read a book a week, volunteer at various gigs (although now I have a fear of being fired from those that I’ll need to discuss with my own therapist ha), make grocery lists, and never miss a day of listing what I’m grateful for; but I’m just not (and I’m pretty damn disciplined in a lot of areas too), and chances are if you are a normal person living a normal life, neither are you.
You know what matters? Being nice to people, calling your friends and telling them you love them, saying you are sorry when you mess up, showing up for people in pain, maybe eating some good food and laughing a lot, making a difference, even on a small scale in someone’s life or day; that is really all. Not much more. I love traveling, I love learning, I love working out and do it regularly, I love yoga, but none of that makes up the meaning of life — not if I’m not living it properly day-to-day. And I’m so grateful that, because I don’t have the luxury of being a gourmet cook, a first place runner, a person who makes a million dollars a year, or someone that is even able to really change her own tire, that I get to slow down and check out the world and just kind of be okay being less than okay.
I don’t know about you, but my largest goal in life is to be an accessible human being to the right people. By accessible, I don’t mean that I’m always available or always interested in being friends with people or always interested in spending time with strangers. By accessible, I mean open and real and not a mask walking around to try and deflect from what I’ve already learned the hard way — that failing at life is just a thing..and we all do it, and doing it makes us kinder, more loving and, honestly, way more damn free.
Action Steps: Just for fun, make a list of every major failure you can think of that you have ever had. How has this failure made you a much better person and how can you either laugh at it now, or use it to go out in the world and get what it is you REALLY WANT?
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