The Fallacy of Failure

People don’t try new things because of a fear of failure. But what exactly does it mean to fail?

By definition, failure is “the condition or fact of not achieving the desired end.”  Fair enough. But who gets to decide what that desired end is? Your parents? Your boss? Your neighbor down the street? In practice we let the outside world dictate what counts as success or failure, but in truth YOU are the only one who can really make that call.

We put so much stock in lofty goals that the society at large establishes, but that sometimes don’t make sense for us as individuals. We don’t try because we are afraid that we won’t be the best, or the smartest, or the first. Odds are you won’t be the best or the smartest or the first in whatever you set out to do. That’s no excuse not to try.

Just like failure, success is also up to you to define. What if success was as simple as being really good at what you do? As simple as jumping the smaller hurdles along the way to a loftier goal? As simple as simply getting off the sidelines and giving it a shot? Would we be so afraid of failure if we actually made it harder to fail?

Pick your desired ends wisely, and failure is not an option.

Newton’s Law of Employment

An old colleague asked me the other day, what would be my perfect employment scenario?  Good thing he asked me via email, because I’m afraid if he asked me in person I would have blurted out, “Anything, anywhere, as long as it’s not HERE!!”  Very unprofessional, I know — but also not very far from the truth.

Over the last couple of days I’ve really been thinking about this.  What IS my dream job?  If the Employment Fairy flitted down right now and told me I could go forth and do anything my little heart desired, what would that be? Truth is, I don’t really have a good answer. (At least not yet, but I’m working on it.)  I’ve been “stuck” (in quotes because it’s my own fault) here for almost a decade, and I now realize that I’ve wasted far too much energy railing against the negative changes in this company that I can do nothing about, instead of funneling that energy into initiating positive change for myself.  In this case, finding another job. One that I like.  I mean REALLY like, not just tolerate in exchange for a paycheck.

Why do we let ourselves get stuck in these dead ends? Part of it is that it’s just easier.  It’s always easier to complain than to initiate change.  It’s easier to stay here where you are than face the uncertainties of going elsewhere.  It’s the law of inertia – a body at rest stays at rest.  This isn’t working for me anymore. I need to get restless.

So back to my “dream job.”  I don’t have a specific title or position in mind, but I’m pretty sure that I want to stay in design and marketing.  I like the creativity and the challenge, especially when I’m allowed to be creative and take on challenges. I want to be part of something big, even if it’s on a small scale.  I want to be part of a positive driving force that can make something bigger, better, faster or more; for the world, or the country, or the consumer, or the local retirement home. I want to take pride in what I do, and be able to take ownership of my work;  to wholeheartedly celebrate the successes of the company, as well as dig out from the failed attempts, shoulder to shoulder with others that share a common vision. I want to help shape that vision, help map out the route for our collective forward progress, and help build the roads we need to get us there if none already exist.

A body at rest stays at rest.  A body in motion stays in motion. Looks like my colleague gave me that one mental push I needed to start moving on. Where will I go? What will I do?  Not sure yet, but I’m really looking forward to the journey.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Give something of yourself today. Donate a few dollars to a local charity; take a few minutes to listen to someone who is largely ignored; teach a kid to tie his shoes.  Then go convince someone else to do the same.  It’s good karma.