One of the many dichotomies of life: How failure really isn’t as bad as we make it out to be, while comfort is not really our friend.
Comfort Zones Suck (our lives away)
Feeling for a moment like a big fucking failure, I started re-reading one of my many success self-help books, because no one’s going to read it for me. I’m barely into the first chapter, when a sleepy creature groans and pokes it head above the debris of my life, peering out with bleary eyes.
Oh, wow, I haven’t seen this critter in a while! It’s my Hunger to Succeed.
It seems my comfort zone had been quietly lulling her to sleep with Lo-Fi music and stacking distractions up around her to hide her from view, once more trying to keep me from that scary thing called Change. Comfort zones do that. It’s their purpose, to shield us from the saber tooth tiger outside the cave.
“Just stay by the fire,” it says in our ear. “I know you’re hungry, but let someone else go hunt for food and possibly not come back. Be safe, don’t risk it.”
The comfort zone’s job is to protect us, keep us safely ensconced in our easy chairs in front of the television, where no one can break our hearts or tread on our egos. The people on the screen do all that for us now. No need to risk it ourselves anymore.
Our comfort zones are adept at sapping our confidence so we don’t put ourselves out there, and risk that most fearful of all creatures: Failure. But this is just silly.
It may sound ironic or even crazy, but without failure we’ll never know Success.
We can emulate others all we want, read their books, watch their YouTube videos, but until we put ourselves out there and actively fail at things, we won’t learn who we are, what we can do, what actually works for us in life. What our purpose is.
When We Learn to Hate Failure
Unless we were lucky enough to have a set of those truly inspired parents and teachers who know the score, most of us are brought up in a failure-unfriendly environment.
- Classmates who jeer when you fall down, tripping up and bullying the one who fails–the supposed weak one–to keep the focus away from their own weaknesses.
- Teachers and coaches who actively tear you down for coloring outside their lines, thinking outside their boxes, doing anything that might show you can be better at something than them.
- Online peers who enjoy trolling and flaming your troubles as well as your accomplishments, to take the spotlight off of their own failed lives (otherwise they’d have more positive things to do and say).
- Media content bent on Success, Success, Success! It’s all about Winning! Heaven forbid you fail at anything.
- Commercial content bent on telling you what a failure you are … if you don’t buy and use their product to “fix” the situation.
- Loving parents who only want to protect their offspring from harm, from the heartbreak of being a “failure”, so they try to teach them how important it is to win at all costs.
These are not easy things to put behind us when they are ingrained in us so young. I know: I am fighting this fear of failure on a daily basis, when I’m aware I’m giving in to the fear at all.
The Face of Failure
Failure is that awkward geeky kid with the big glasses who never gets picked for the team. The kid who now owns a multi-million-dollar corporation he started in his garage. All because he didn’t waste his time conforming.
Failure is that quirky kid who made jokes in class and drew pictures in her notebook instead of memorizing dates and names she would never ever need in real life; whose paintings now hang on a gallery wall and will create their own history.
Failure is how entrepreneurs become millionaires–or happy average people living their dreams. These people try everything, embrace the entire process as an adventure, including the failures. They know every attempt provides a lesson in what does and doesn’t work.
I want to be like them when I grow up.
It’s In Our DNA
There’s this string of organic programming that defines the form of all life on this planet, a string of molecules so complex it takes a supercomputer to unravel–and it was created from failure.
DNA makes mistakes all the time, called mutations. All life on this planet evolved from our DNA “learning” which of these random “defects” thrived. Without these mutations, life never would have happened, much less become anything complex or sentient.
We were created to fail! And that’s awesome. The problem is our view of failure, as a negative thing.
Our comfort zone, and the comfort zones of many of the people around us, cry out for safety. Don’t risk anything. Stay out of harm’s way. Don’t live. Don’t evolve. Die safe and unhappy and unfulfilled.
Wait… is this what we’re here for?
Find Success through Failure
Fuck that. Fail. Fail with abandon! Try awesome impossible things bound to fail!
Because once you get that forward momentum going, the little successes will start happening, too, more and more often as you learn what didn’t work; because, like Captain Marvel, you didn’t give up.
The only real failure is giving up before you get there.
And when you accidentally fall across one of those crazy impossible things that doesn’t fail? Then you will have found a thing no one else has found, because they were afraid to try: Your seed to Success.
If at first you don’t succeed; keep on sucking ’til you do succeed!— Curly, from The Three Stooges
Evolution: It’s not just for DNA anymore.