The truth about failure – embrace it and you’ll find it’s easier to get back up again

I’m not sure whether Jessica Edgson has yet discovered Scott Peck. But, instinctively perhaps, she takes a Peck-like approach in this excellent blog on the subject that’s taboo to New Age parents. Failure, Jes writes, is a reality. Life, Peck writes, is difficult. The paradox is that once we realise this fact, things start getting a whole lot easier. I love Jes’s conclusions. Another thought-provoking contribution from Biznewz’s free thinking young blogger. – AH

Jessica Edgson: This week she tackles a subject that’s taboo in many “enlightened” households – failure.

By Jessica Edgson*

Reach for the stars. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.

These are the pretty little lies we tell children. Mostly because we believe they will give them ambition, inspire them to work hard. We repeat these lines to protect their innocence and prolong their idealism. But, honestly, part of the reason we reiterate these clichés is because we don’t want to admit to ourselves that dreams don’t often come true. That hard work doesn’t guarantee success and that failure is, in fact, an option.

Of course, there are plenty of pretty little lies for adults too, and they come in the sparkly form of inspirational quotes. The fuel to the flame of self-help gurus, these short and sweet feel-good mantras are largely focused on “success” and “failure”. Their purpose is to keep us on the track to greatness.

Those who have reached the top tend to pontificate on the subject of failure. They preach to the masses about getting back up again, learning from mistakes, trying harder, failing better. They give speeches about their own rejection, their learning curves and uphill battles, and they tell you that it will all be worth it in the end, when you succeed. But it’s “if” not “when” and the fight is never fair.

They don’t tell you that sometimes you fail at something because you’re downright awful at it. They don’t tell you that not everybody is a winner. They don’t tell you that sometimes – when the odds are stacked against you – the guy who got dealt a better hand will walk away with the prize, even if you deserved it.

It’s easy for someone polishing their trophies to tell you to get up and try again. But when you’ve been knocked down and you’re lying in a bloody mess, it’s hard to believe you have the strength to crawl to your knees let alone make it to first place.

Often it’s not your mangled body or depleted resources that keep you from rising above your defeat, but the dignity lost in battle. When you hit your head on rock bottom and someone asks you what you have left to lose, the answer is your last shred of self-worth.

You don’t need to be a card carrying member of the genius club to know that self-confidence gets you a hell of a lot further than a self-deprecating sense of humour. You only need to take a glance at the world leaders (in both politics and business) to know that, while humility is honourable, a bloated ego gets you places.

It’s easy for those who have only ever heard “yes” to never doubt their capabilities. But when you’ve been denied the golden ticket more than once it gets pretty difficult to have faith in yourself. A large part of success is selling yourself and if you don’t believe in the product your pitch isn’t going to be nearly convincing enough.

So when do you call time of death on your dream? When do you give up on playing the lead and settle for being an extra? The answer is never. You don’t stop trying. Sure, your goal may be unobtainable and far-fetched. Sure, you may peak at average. But what’s the point of a life without ambition?

You may spend every second of your life working towards something and never actually get there. That’s a cold hard dose of reality right there. But at least you will have hope. If you give up, that’s it, there is nothing more. Better the possibility of greatness than the certainty of a life never lived.

* Read more of Jessica’s work by clicking here.

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