Reframing Failure

“I failed” can be the hardest statement to admit to ourselves; never mind to say out loud.  But maybe failure isn’t a bad thing.  There is a cliché saying about if we never fail we’ve never tried.  And this statement is true: if we never try something new we can never fail at that task.  But, if we never try something new, are we not failing at being adventurous or living?

Failure does not reflect on who we are as people.  It is a reflection on a task, one that maybe is not meant for us, but the only way we can know that is to try.  I have failed at so many things, but I look at where I am now and I wonder: what would have happened if I had succeeded? Would I be where I am now?

I applied for an internship at a highly respected literary agency—the first one I applied for—and I didn’t get it.  So technically, I failed.  But, because I didn’t get that internship I made a really great and solid relationship with the agent I did get my first internship with.  She was exceptionally helpful and still relatively new to the game so was eager to answer any of my questions and kept me in the loop of what was happening with clients and manuscripts: she got me hooked on this career path.  To this day I stay in contact with her about some of the things I read while I was working for her.  My experience with her led me to my next internship, which led me to where I am now.  And what if I got the internship? It probably would be fine, but where I am now, is my dream position, or I should say my dream ladder.

I am exactly where I want to be.  But had any of those other applications worked out I wouldn’t be here.  Not getting those hurt; it shook my confidence.  But knowing what I do now? I wouldn’t change a thing.  My failure to get into those spots allowed me to succeed at where I wanted to be.

And what about those assignments, or that course that isn’t working out so well?  Isn’t that a failure?  Technically an “F” is a fail, but, again, I don’t believe that means it is a bad thing.  Maybe that F is going to push you in a new direction, maybe it is going to reignite your passion for the topic, or maybe it is a sign you are pushing yourself too hard and to give yourself some grace before you completely burn out.  Failure does not have to be negative.  It is a learning opportunity.  You can dig in and push through or you can redirect.

There is always a chance to change our perspective and it is too easy to beat ourselves up over a perceived failure or our shortcomings.  Everyone has their strengths, their passions, and none are better or worse than the other and it takes some trials to find out what our passion is.  Some people seem like they are born knowing but others find it takes some time to find that perfect “thing”.

The fear of failing stops so many people from trying.  But failing is nothing more than a redirection, a lesson.  So, this summer, don’t stop yourself from trying something new for fear of failing, don’t stop yourself from trying a new subject for fear of not understanding—just try.  If it doesn’t work out, then you know.  Reframe how you see failure.

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