I have never failed. I have gone mightily wrong and have not succeeded at many things. But I honestly struggle to comfortably wear the word ‘failure’ because that word conjures a depth of hopelessness in which I have never let myself dwell. I have felt it, I am sure we all have, but to wallow in that level of self-doubt and darkness has always been too painful to sit in before it formed failure as a label.
And yet, I am scared of not getting things right. I can honestly say that there is at least one instance in each day where I do something to circumvent a particular unravelling. And that is my way of maintaining the ‘right’ life, be it at home or at work, on social media or out in public. I temper myself to keep things consistent and I know that holds me back sometimes.
One of my new all-time favourite questions is this:
What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail
It’s a question that carries power beyond belief because, to me, it taps into the psyche of today so perfectly. We talk of success and I don’t think people know what that means anymore. The horizons have spread too far, the choices too diverse, to let most of us hone in on a compelling enough definition to drive us. I think there are few of us who dream clearly enough to drive our heart and souls into realising the vision. But there is a universal understanding of the language of failure. We do know how to connect with that and what we all do to avoid it. That is why that statement carries power. So what would you do? Could you manage to remain as compassionate as you are now? What would you cease to tolerate in environment, in company and in heart? It’s amazing how it opens up a world of clear introspection. And it’s fascinating what you may spot.
For me, I’ve realised that actually, despite decades of telling myself otherwise, I’d like to run my own business. At least part time. It’s a ridiculously empowering thought that I might be able to earn enough to thrive for the rest of my life, working to my own passions, principles and practices. I would also have to consider going back to teaching. It’s the one thing that I can’t look back on with rose-tinted glasses. I look back and grimace, questioning most of what I did. But it’s still one of the very best jobs in the world.
If I couldn’t fail, I’d speak my mind and heart more. Not that I mark success as people listening and embracing what I say. I mark success as being able to communicate my thoughts and feelings in ways that authentically represents me, and not then compromise it if the reaction is bad. Not failing means being gentle in truth and standing compassionately firm. Because I believe that whilst life may not bring you all that you yearn for, if you speak it and put your truth out there about what you want, then you can’t ever regret what does and doesn’t come.
I would read more. How crazy is that? I think of myself as a good student and I was once an avid reader. But it’s true. I would read the books that I don’t think apply to me because I’m not ———- enough. I’d go back to The Elegant Universe and finish it, furiously scribbling notes all the way through. I’d return to my Global Media reading books and devour them, instead of worrying about forgetting all the nuances that would make me au fait with the topic.
I’d do more. Not what and as I do now, but here’s the truth: I’d go running, skiing, scuba diving and surfing. Truth is, I’ve pretty much avoided these all my life for ego. For not wanting to look stupid. For not wanting to find out that I can’t do what lots of my friends can do. I’ve known this all my life and yet, finally, when I put it in words for others, for you to read, I realise how awful that is. To myself. And for all the people I know who are fighting so damn hard to get back to fine fettle.
Finally, if I knew I couldn’t fail, I’d sit in my present. I am queen at shape shifting into other people’s ‘now’. And I am genius at emotionally and spiritually detaching from hard moments and beautiful moments alike. And if I knew that ‘now’ was just part of the experience, that the bad could be truly compensated for and that the good could hit the dizzying heights of pleasure and that I’d truly remember what that felt like, I’d be more present. And if I thought the penultimate paragraph was hard to write, I hadn’t seen this one coming.
As you ask the question, may you realise as I just have, that the only failure is simply not trying at all. And that means stepping up today and each and every day.