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Steps To Success

14/06/2017 11:53

So they've opened a Museum of Failure, now, and lots of us probably feel as though we ought to be exhibits.

The Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden, exhibits products which were complete and glorious flops, often by otherwise successful companies. So there's Colgate Lasagne, one of a range of ready-meals which aimed to remind diners to brush their teeth after eating. There's I'm Back And You're Fired, Donald Trump's version of Monopoly from 13 years ago. And there's Google Glass, one of the earliest types of wearable technology, which included an augmented reality display and in-built camera.

There are so many sayings about failure - that without it, you cannot succeed, or that the key element lies in your attitude towards initial failure, and the refusal to give up and be defeated, instead learning from the experience and moving onwards to success.

Try telling that to a teacher in exam season. 'Ah yes,' you imagine yourself saying to a School Inspector next term. 'My class all failed their GCSE. But we've all learned from it - possibly that they should have done another subject or gone to another school. So it's not really failure - it's success!' No. It didn't convince me either.

Or try saying that just after the June 2017 General Election. 'No: failing to win a majority isn't failing - it's a stepping-stone towards success!' Surely such a way of thinking would be bound to make Theresa May happier about her gamble on a snap election, or even make Jeremy Corbyn think he'd won - yet neither would be a rational reaction to reality.

World-famous inventor James Dyson is quoted as saying, 'Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success.' Although every time I clean my house I'm more likely to think about Mr Dyson's successes, it's fair to assume that some of his ideas must - excuse the pun - have really sucked.

I'm not sure whether I'm exactly convinced that I'm failing at everything at the moment, but I certainly don't feel as though I'm glorying in success. Most of all, I think, I feel a bit bemused.

I'm bemused when I look at social media and see everybody else apparently sailing through troubled times, looking fantastic, smiling, having a great time with nights out and parties at home and perfect, happy families largely untouched by illness or despair. I'm bemused when I see people I work with skipping through the day apparently energetic and unbeaten, whereas I often feel as though I'm dragging myself to reach the hometime bell, only to start into the kind of seasonal avalanche of paperwork which signals the end of one school year and the approaching shadow of the next. I'm bemused when I see total strangers pushing themselves and their glimmering-with-perfection families ahead of everybody else, whether that's in traffic or a queue, or the almost perceptible permanently-running marathon to be seen to be more fabulous than everybody else. I'm almost permanently bemused by our over-class of celebrities, endorsing this diet or that clothing range, halo-ed with self importance as they tell us pathetic underlings how we should live our lives to be a paler imitation of their greatnesses.

Maybe what I should do is open my own museum of failure. Right here in the blog pieces I send out into the ether, unsure whether anyone, anywhere, likes or even reads. Failure to be a perfect member of a perfect family, a perfect or even halfway-good friend, failure to have the energy for or invitation to a perfect social life. I'll never be remotely fabulous at all, let alone more fabulous than anybody else, let alone engage in a lifelong race to prove fictitious fabulousness to anyone. And I fear for anyone who follows my example in life skills like stylishness or health.

I'm reaching that age when visiting a Folk Museum means seeing exhibits which I remember from my childhood. Old fashioned household items, analogue cameras, the prototype BBC computer which only one teacher in the school was trained to use. But all it takes to catalogue our failures or bemusements is a glance over the shoulder into memory. Those friendships which fell apart. Those days at work which didn't quite go to plan. Those rows at home. That weight gain and those medical malfunctions.

I suppose there's nothing for it but to try again, just like the famous quotations suggest. Exhibit our failures, own up to them, and try again. Just like the politicians have to find a way to run the country after a car crash of election results; just like inventors and companies move on to success after the product that went wrong or didn't sell. As Samuel Beckett put it in Worstward Ho:

'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.'

If, as Alexander Graham Bell claimed, 'preparation is the key to success,' and as Benjamin Franklin said, 'By failing to prepare, we are preparing to fail,' then maybe our personal museums of failure are really just museums of preparation.

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