The Blessing of Failure

Wood blocks failure success
Photo by EtiAmmos

We live in a culture that worships success. So much so that we endow successful people with an almost supernatural authority - success somehow proves one is right about something or everything. And to many, it doesn’t even matter the means in which a person achieves success, as long as the person does so, which has justified a loosely interpreted morality of "whatever works." (Admit it, you've fallen victim in one way or another to this mindset.) This prevalent but unspoken belief that "Success is the ultimate proof that one is right," is perhaps best expressed in the saying, "Success is the best revenge." Becoming successful is seen as the best way to get back at all those people who slighted, rejected, or doubted one in any way. A sad way to live life if you stop and think about it, but hey, I'm as guilty as the next person in thinking and/or living this way. This is the way we think and live in America! And never mind the saying, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins."

Given the highly distorted and immature views on success, there is the consequent, equally distorted views on failure and ways of dealing with failure (e.g. substance abuse.) Is failure excruciating to go through? It sure is. But speaking personally, the biggest change and growth (for the better) happened during those times when I experienced failure. When success came easily, I can't say that I learned much or grew much and worse, the success made me prideful. Yes I know, it's a cliche to say that, but hey, it's the truth. Regardless, failure is dreaded, feared, and avoided at any cost.

Yes, success is a blessing, but failure is also arguably a blessing, and perhaps a greater blessing than success. Failure a greater blessing? In our achievement-oriented culture, that's practically heresy. We love power and hate weakness and anything that represents weakness. No, it's no fun having things like false hope and unrealistic expectations extricated from one's life, which is what happens in failure. I'd certainly be lying if I said I enjoyed that process - it's about as much fun as having a bad tooth worked on - but I am eternally grateful (always in hindsight of course) of any experience, however painful, that brings me closer to the truth.

(Julian Moody, who experienced a lot of failure in his life, discusses failure in the topic "Failure Is Nothing To Fear" in our project Dialogues with Julian Moody: On Life, Business, Sustainability, and Other Things.)

(Posted 4/13/2012)