Day 21 - Failure is a Hot Date on a Saturday Night
There’s been a lot of talk about failure in the last few years. There are college courses on it, books written about it, Ted talks tedding about, and it’s all in a positive light. Failure, these days, in this light, is not a big F word. Failure means you are striving, that you are trying new things, that you are willing to put yourself out there and fall down.
Falling down is the new cool.
As long as you get up.
I was listening to Dave Aspey interview Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (https://blog.bulletproof.com/nick-foles/), and Nick was saying he had a nightly routine with his daughter Lily where they told each other three things they were grateful for and one thing that had failed at that day. Nick wanted to encourage his daughter to think of failure as opportunity instead of as, well, failure.
I decided to do Nick Foles’ practice with my daughter, and so we started texting each other every night three things we were grateful for and one thing we had failed at doing.
I found that my failures were petty: I failed at cleaning up the house. I failed at taking my magnesium. One day, desperate, I went into crow pose in the middle of the living room because I knew I would fall out of it. Predetermined failure—does that even count? It would have been a failure if I’d balance in the pose because then I would have had to find something else at which to fail!
Failing can be work!
We went back and for with our lists for a week, and now it has been two weeks and I haven’t written one a few days.
Was this a failure?
Could I be that lucky? Is it that easy to fail?
A simple definition of failure is lack of success. A second definition is the omission of expected or required action.
A simple definition of success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Another is the attainment of popularity or profit, and a third is a person or thing that achieves desired aims or desires prosperity.
Why do these definitions of success make me feel like yawning? Dude invents a car. Dude sells car. Everyone loves Dude. Dude gets rich. Dude dies.
A really good story depends, I think, on failure. Dude loses home in the pursuit of inventing a car. Dude meets Dudette. Dudette helps Dude make better car. Dude and Dudette sell car. Dude and Dudette get rich. Dude and Dudette fight over new toys. Dude and Dudette divorce. Dude meets Dude and realized he loves men. Dude lives happily ever after with Dude. Both Dudes die of old age on the same day.
Does me forgetting to write my list to my daughter contribute to a more powerful life story? I think it does if I realize that my deathbed intention is to have the healthiest and closest possible relationship with her. Realizing that not writing my list to her was a failure can be a wonderful tool leading me to restructure my life so I address my priorities. It’s especially wonderful if the word failure has a positive charge so that saying it to myself doesn’t chip away at my soul: failure, failure, failure: you are a failure why even bother?
Instead, my soul could hear HALLELUJAH FAILURE! and see it the way I see fear these days, as a fiery doorway I get to walk through knowing something better, something more amazing, is on the other side.
When my daughter sent me her texts listing what she was grateful for and what she had failed at doing, I felt like I was peering through a church window. I never breathed when I was reading her lists. I was too full of gratitude to also take in oxygen. She was sharing her life with me, and I was so happy. It wasn’t about what she had done well or what she felt needed more work, it was that we were connected enough to share the experience of being alive.
I wish we didn’t give grades in school. We can do better.
I think A’s are the disruption to greatness.
See you tomorrow.