The Weird, Beautiful Truth About Failing

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Failing. Failure. Ugh. I know, right? But…the other day,  while walking into a store, I passed a gentleman who was wearing a shirt that read, “Striving for Perfection”, and my first thought was, “wow, that’s too bad”.

I get the quote, I get the intent behind it. I know it’s meant to be inspiring or some such thing. I get that it probably means, “you’ll never actually reach perfection, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.” But I don’t buy it. And I don’t think you should either.

We’ve already got enough pressure to be perfect. Look at where our standards are now. It doesn’t seem like enough to be kind, thoughtful, generous, hard-working and healthy. Now we need to look like super models, never age, raise future pro-athletes, and become the CEO of our own tech startup by age 22, all while saving the planet, curing diseases, and feeding the worlds poor.

Not only is the pressure to look and be amazing ridiculous and unattainable, but we’re chasing someone ELSE’S standard of perfection.

Who is this person???

There is no person. It’s an insane chicken-or-the-egg scenario where we’ve all fallen into this trap of believing the collective, made up of advertising and media for every industry that exists, and perpetuated by all of us.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love to push myself to do better, be better, think better. And I can’t imagine living a life wherein I wasn’t striving to improve. But,

Beautiful Failure

Did you know brownies may not exist if it weren’t for a failed attempt at baking a chocolate cake? Pinterest was originally called Tote (ever heard of it?) and evolved from a shopping site into the platform we know today, and Twitter had two weeks to become Twitter, or its original platform, Odeo, was getting the ax. Seinfeld was almost cancelled after the pilot because ratings were so bad, but went on to win an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Failing means you tried. It means you’re working toward figuring things out. It means you’re learning what works and what doesn’t. It means you haven’t given up.

Sometimes we’re so afraid of failing, or of being bad at something, that we won’t even try. One of the things that breaks my heart the most, is seeing young people say they don’t want to try a new sport or activity, because they “don’t know if they’ll be good at it”, or they think they’re “too old to get started”. At age 12. At age 12 kids should still be kids. Trying new things. Having fun. (When did we become a society that demands perfection to the point that our children won’t try something if they haven’t been taking lessons from a private coach since they were two?)

We see it in the business world as well. Folks afraid to apply for a promotion because they don’t perfectly meet every qualification listed on the job description (which as a side note, isn’t written in blood and blessed by the Holy Order of Human Resources). And ladies, we’re more guilty of this than men are.  Or talented, smart, ambitious people with huge dreams never making the leap into  a more fulfilling career, or starting their own business, because “what if it fails”.

I wrote a horrible, horrible, epic failure of a manuscript in November of 2014. It’s an entire novel that I have never let another human set eyes on because it’s so bad. Like, my mother would probably not claim me as her own it’s so awful. There’s little story arc, the character development is atrocious, the plot is weak at best. It will never see the light of day. But, I WROTE A NOVEL. No publisher in their right mind would even acknowledge that it’s made up of real words, but I wrote a novel. I don’t have the bragging rights I’d love to one day have, but for now, I get to at least say I did it. I completed it. The trying, the doing, the work. None of it is wasted.

Let’s stop celebrating the perfection in one another, and start celebrating the attempts, the misses, the flaws, and the striving.

We all fail. Failing is life. Failing is learning. Pulling ourselves out of every situation where we might fail means living in the margins. Live your messy, colorful, sometimes-failing, always trying, imperfect life all over the page.

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