On Failure:

We humans have a tragic desire to oversimplify everything.

Even the infinitely complex relationships of universal forces are not safe from us. We have an incessant need to group these forces into simple, conflicting, polar relationships.

Light vs dark, night vs day, love vs hate, and good vs evil are all examples of our tendency to simplify intricately woven dichotomies into singular conflicts between two opposing forces.

But life isn’t that simple. We all exist in that blurry somewhere between black and white.

A classic struggle between good and evil. [Source: The Lion King].
I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but our perception of failure has also fallen prey to this same oversimplified categorization.

We see it as the opponent of success. We see it as success’ polar and negative opposition.

We’ve villainized the idea of failure to the extent that we’ve systematically set about eradicating it from our lives. We avoid failure. We avoid putting ourselves into situations where failure is even a possibility. We avoid the memories of our past failures and we shudder at the thought of future failures.

Many of us cannot think of anything worse than becoming a failure in the eyes of our friends, family, and complete strangers. We’ve come to fear the notion of failure and, as such, we’ve given the word power.

The power we’ve given the idea of failure affects us all in our daily lives. It bothers me to see so many of us struggle against the possibility of it.

Whether it’s the mastering of Olympic lifts, speaking a new language, learning an instrument, trying to dance the tango, pursuing an intimate relationship, or perfecting the handstand, we’ve all allowed the concept of failure to hinder us from experiencing so many of our passionate desires – big or small.

It’s heartbreaking to think that we’re willing to sacrifice so many of these miniature adventures in life because of our fear of failing.

What’s worse is the realization that this crippling effect is only magnified when it comes to our biggest dreams and life’s ambitions.

Especially since failing is an essential part of achieving those dreams.

There are people who never make mistakes because they never have sensible projects.”Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections.

Think back to when we were children.

Think of the scraped knees, the summers we spent in casts and slings, the reprimanding we received when we came home with ripped and muddied clothes, and the countless other war stories we wrote as little gladiators.

We’ve all been this little dude. [Source drgreene.com ].
We were certainly fearful as children.

Whether it was fear of the dark, of the big dog next door, or of the monster we believed was in our closet, childhood could be a terrifying time.

When it came to the prospect of failure, however, we were fearless.

We were Roman legionnaires, Greek myrmidons, and Apache warriors.

We crashed our bikes, we played in the mud, we fell off the monkey bars, we slipped on frozen ponds, and we doggy paddled hopelessly until we sunk to the bottom of the pool.

We tried and we failed, and then we got up to do it all over again.

We did this literally thousands of times.

Eventually, at a point in time I doubt any of us really remember, we stopped failing at those things. We could ride our bike, we could skate on ice, and we could swim laps. That road to success was laid with countless bricks of failure.

As much as we benefited from our childhood mistakes, our witch hunt against failure has fooled us into stealing these lessons away from our youth.

I see an overabundance of participation ribbons. I see schools removing failing grades. I see sports being played without the score being kept.

I see jungle gyms being replaced by rubber prisons to serve as the vanguard against the dark arts of scraping one’s knees. I see kids with headsets on playing their x-box and growing up without team mates because their parents believe hockey or karate is too dangerous for their fragile son or daughter.

We don’t have much as children.

We have to go to bed before the grown ups. We have to eat that smelly broccoli before we’re allowed to leave the table.

We’re not even allowed to wear our favourite Ninja Turtles shirt because it has mustard stains on it and it’s picture day at school.

It’s bullshit, really.

The one thing we truly possess as children, however, is freedom from socially constructed fears.

We don’t care if we look stupid. I mean, we cut our own hair withCrayola scissors and actually think it looks good for Christ’s sake. We don’t care if people see us fall, drop the ball, or crash into a tree.

We’re determined and unbreakable.

We’re made of rubber on both the inside and the out. We bounce, we’re bouncy.

So why then are we so hell-bent on destroying that for our earthly heirs? Do we really want a planet full of people who have never experienced the lessons and subsequent growth of failure?

I’m sure most of us have seen Jim Carey’s speech on fear. I think it’s a wonderful way of looking at life and at failure.

I agree completely with his line of reasoning – if the potential to fail exists in both playing it safe and chasing your dream, it doesn’t make sense to choose the former – but I also think it extends further than that.

Failure is an absolute necessity in obtaining the things we want.

If we want to achieve anything in life, we will experience failure. This is a certainty and we must accept it. Only through accepting and embracing that simple fact can we take that first sincere step in our personal journey.

There is still a little warrior in all of us.

Instead of removing childhood from the child, we should be re-discovering that childhood as adults.

We should all be learning from the little warriors we used to be.

Be the tiny gladiators who innately understand the importance of failure on the way to success.

Be the mini commandos who were not socially conditioned to equate failure with the opposite of achievement.

Those kids are still in us, somewhere. We are still bouncy. So go out today and scrape your knees. Fall off of the monkey bars and look stupid.

Do something you suck at.

Fail every single day and I promise you that we will never stop learning and growing together.

Be good to each other,

– MG.


14 thoughts on “On Failure:

  1. Giving power to the idea of failure occurs the moment you take its very meaning out of the self-internalized motivating force of our youth and transform it into an external pressure that keeps us trapped within the many layers of walls we erect to protect a false sense of identity. Thank you for reminding us all to embrace failure, no matter how great or insignificant, and then use it as one of the many crucial stepping stones in becoming better within ourselves and towards others. Great first post MG.

    “Does what’s happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness, and all other qualities that allow a person’s nature to fulfill itself? So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great first post. I find fear to be the greatest motivator. But it’s unfortunate how little we celebrate the highs and long we hang our heads during the lows.

    Look forward to the next post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. I can definitely see the similarity you drew between my “Mistakes” article and this one. I think you’re right about kids being unafraid and unashamed of living life the way they want to. They’re don’t start getting embarrassed until they’re much older and then it’s only because we taught them to be that way. I have 2 kids of my own and this post kind of made me see the amount of social pressure we put on them that prevents them from just being a kid. But, it’s a tough balance as a parent to teach children both the structure (or success) necessary to operate in our world and the freedom to be yourself without fear. It’s also tough to try to keep your kids safe, while at the same time letting them experience life. I grew up the same as you describe in the dirt, mud, and trees. But, I am scared to death every time my daughter get’s on her bike. Definitely a lot to think about. I may write an article about the struggle to do both as a parent, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very well written and absolutely true. Makes me remember that when I was a child, I was completely unconcerned with failure, as you stated. But now as an adult, I worry about failure all the time. Looks like it is time for me to revisit who I used to be. Will definitely read more of your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey! thanks for the comment!

      I think we all struggle to hold onto that fearlessness we had as children, but you’ll find its surprising with how easily we can recapture it once we put our minds to it!


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