It is devastating when we put our hopes, efforts and time into trying to achieve something and in the end, it doesn’t work out the way we wanted it to. For many of us, we struggle to understand that it is perfectly fine when such things happen. We may feel like giving up when things do not go to plan but the reality is that we are all going to fail in life. Failure happens. It happens a lot more for some people than others, but the most important thing to remember is that nobody is exempt from the inevitability of failure.
I started this year having given 2016 the ultimate side-eye for being ‘the year of Ls’. What I didn’t capitalise on was the fact that I had some amazing achievements last year, with the highlight being that I got into my dream University and started studying a subject which I am completely in love with. I didn’t focus on the fact that despite being a victim of a random physical attack by a total stranger and going through the heavy stress of preparing for court, I was still able to finish my A Levels with flying colours. I didn’t focus on the new ‘Me’ which I had started to learn more about.
I should have put all of this on a flag and waved it around for the world to see, but instead I allowed myself to become obsessed with the little things that did not go right, such as not achieving 90% in a particular English exam which I desperately aimed for a minimum of 90% in. Little failures like that can seem to us like the end of the world because we invested our energy and soul into trying to make it happen, but each endeavour we have is only but a piece of the puzzle of our lives (which shall I add is pretty massive).
Don’t get me wrong. Success is great. But sometimes, failure can be better for 3 solid reasons.
1) Failure is practice
2) Failure builds character
3) Failure keeps us on track
Now, let me explain.
Failure is practice
Think of it this way, would you rather fail at (A) a local city tournament than fail at (B) the Olympics? I would hope the answer in our minds is A and not B.
There is a reason why, if you are interested in a corporate career (like I am), you may have been told by now to apply for multiple training contracts in this order: First, apply to firms you like but wouldn’t be distraught if you did not get a contract with. Next, apply to firms you aren’t the fondest of although you would be extremely delighted if you were a successful applicant. Lastly, apply for firms you are in love with and would cry for 3 days (hopefully not literally) if you did not succeed. This approach is useful because it gives you the space to use your past failures as opportunities to get better.
And let’s be honest, it’s easier to shrug off rejection and bounce back if it is a firm you weren’t really over the moon about than it is to be rejected from one you genuinely would have given an arm and a leg for. In this same way, we can view our failures as some way to prepare and be better in the future for an opportunity that will come, when it really matters how good you are at doing a certain thing.
Failure builds character
I’ll admit it. My biggest weakness is how critical I am of myself. It has taken a few unexpected failures for me to understand that Angelica is not her achievements, nor is Angelica her failures. To make it specific to myself (as I have the word ‘lawyer’ written all over me) Angelica’s essay does not equal Angelica. Your work; skills; achievements are not you. They are a product of your effort and other variables like access to resources, preparation, health, which may or may not be out of your control on a particular day.
Failure forces us to appreciate that we are gifted in our own unique ways by encouraging us to question why we failed; because most of the time, when we fail, it is not because we were not good enough. Rather, it may have been something we did or did not do that caused us not to be successful in whatever we were trying to do. Therefore, through failing, we get to know ourselves better and know what works for us and what does not work for us. It is simply feedback for us on how to perfect our craft and endure through life’s tough challenges which will continue to come in the future.
Failure keeps us on track
Ever heard the saying, “when one door closes, another opens”? It’s true. Many of closed doors have been blessings in disguise but we often lament for too long over something that is actually there to protect or help us; banging and knocking on the closed door for so long that we do not see the other door which has opened for us.
As hard as it can be to accept it, failure forces us to be on the right track by being a tool of fate. It forces us to re-evaluate our goals and come back with a stronger, better, more confident and assured reason why we want to achieve whatever we were working towards. On the flip side, it could even help us to realise that the path we were heading down was not for us, which is why we needed to be forced off the path before it got dangerous/bad for us.
It can be a very humbling experience as it teaches us that no matter how wise we think we are, we still do not always know what is best for ourselves. Steve Jobs once said in a speech at Stanford, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path. And that will make all the difference”.
Your ‘thing’ can be God, Karma, Osun, or whatever you want it to be.
For me, that ‘thing’ is my faith. Despite my past failures and those yet to come, I know that all things are working for my good. So, yes; sometimes, failure is indeed a good thing.