You are about to be called up to a podium to give a presentation to a hundred of the most intimidating people you can think of. Glancing over your notes once last time, you think about how annoyed you are that you didn’t get any rest. “Why is my heart beating so fast’, you think to yourself, “just take a breath, it’s not a big deal, think of everyone in their underwear”. You’re snapped out of your thoughts as you hear your name called. You put away your notes and walk up to the podium. Just before getting to the microphone, you step on a wet spot, slip and begin to trip on your own foot. In what seems like a minute, you think to yourself, “!@#$!@%”, “why the heck was there a wet spot there”, “if I can only grab on to the podium”, “oh, is that who I think it —— “, and then BANG. You’re on the floor, in probably the most ungraceful trip anyone could imagine. Flustered, you get up and take the podium, you’ve completely lost your train of thoughts. All of your plans of how you were going to engage the crowd at the beginning went out the window. When you look into the audience you see a couple smiles, a few people looking at their phones, “are they still laughing at my fall?”. You proceed to take out your notes, and fumble through your presentation with difficulty.
Lack of success. Unsuccessful. Failure. Words represent our culture, our way of thinking. Over time, word definitions change and morph as society changes. The word ‘nice’ hundreds of years ago meant ‘foolish’. Perhaps it was always somewhat related to helping others, perhaps not; but somehow the term changed. It became something different that better represented the times. Why can’t we deliberately morph these terms to better match what we should be aspiring to be?
The term ‘success’ is typically associated with wealth, popularity and achieving our goals. In latin, the origin seemed to represent more of any ‘outcome’, not just positive outcomes. Almost as if we’ve cursed everything we do with the requirement that it be ‘successful’ only in the positive sense, and anything less is unacceptable, a failure.
We apply the label, reinforce it with social constructs and lock it away as an insecurity that must never be shown. Tripping over your own foot while walking up to give a speech sucks, not only did we fail to walk without falling, we failed to give the presentation well. If we had the choice to not give the speech at all and save ourselves the embarrassment, the failure, would we say heck yes? Should we?
The fact is, most of us dread failure because of the social ramifications. Society and technology however are changing, it is time to evolve above these unreasonable social norms. We can’t continue to think of failure as some sort of social curse. Failure is not obtaining the desirable outcome after lots of hard work.
I’m not going to twist failure into some positive happy place. Failure sucks, and if it doesn’t you’re doing it wrong. The thing is we need to harden our minds to chase failure, get back up when we fall down and not think twice about what other’s are thinking, knowing that the only way to really learn is to fail.