Success is not final, failure is not fatal - it is the courage to continue that counts - Winston Churchill
Recently I was sitting on my balcony talking to a friend, who is a tutor, about what is failure. As the summer ended, various exam results came out and students had to deal with the grades they received. Some were deemed successes and some failures. So what is it to fail and to succeed?
Most days my mind will come up against fear. I might have an idea for a script, a song or even cooking a new dish. The voice will kick in - "oh no you can't do that, it won't work". Suddenly, if not watched, I can quickly fall into lockdown. Paralysis sets in. The crux of this is a fear of failing and, with that, a fear of getting hurt and being rejected. The animalistic urge in a scenario of a perceived threat to our safety is to either fight or fly or go into stasis. The key word here is 'perceived'.
Without defining to ourselves what success or failure means, we will constantly be coming up against this wall of fear. For years, failing was solely based on how I thought others saw me and how I felt I should be acting in accordance to how others were acting. "I haven't been photographed like this person has", "why don't I get in magazines like that person"... These thoughts were rife. What was missing actually was a concentration on what I actually wanted and thought was important. So really, with failing comes what I deem to be a success. I could be extremely high achieving in work, earning big bucks and huge bonuses on a monetary level, and in terms of power wielded. I would be what can be termed... a success. However I might spend 18 hours a day in the office, never able to see my family, suffer huge stress and head for emotional burnout. This could be deemed a failure. Without looking within to myself and truly looking and exploring what I really want out of something I would always be precariously balancing on these ice floats of social conceptions of failure and success, not my own.
I am always fascinated as to who we the public hold up as successes and failures. Especially in the success category, I often regard certain individuals and really query what it is that we are truly celebrating? A person that looks great and takes shit load of drugs and is clearly an addict and is living in severe pain? Somebody who is extremely talented yet treats people like dirt? What is this saying about what we in the Western world like to see as failing and succeeding?
What I believe is that we very rarely actually want to see the PERSON themselves. We aren't interested in whether they are happy or unhappy, kind or unpleasant, love puppies or drown them in a water bucket. What we want is facts and figures, numbers and statistics - these are the things that do the talking. Connecting with these things is easy, it is numerical, it flashes before our eyes. The problem is this operates at a superficial level and rarely are we encouraged to look beyond this.
There is a huge difference between me saying "I date a man with a Ferrari and a house in Mayfair" (I don't by the way) and "I date a guy who is abusive to me and likes to control everything I do" or even "I date a guy who has trust issues, gets very anxious and is really kind to me".
By looking behind the mask of success or failure, what we allow ourselves to do is truly connect and find out what we really truly want and like and therefore who we REALLY are. For example... if I really deem a successful person to be someone who has loads of money and treats people like shit, I have to look at what that means about me.
My brother said a great thing to me a while ago about being in a relationship with anything. He said "we owe it to ourselves to give it our full attention". Often the fear of failure will ward me off truly committing to something. Even in this piece, I started then kind of wanted to stop. I carried on. What the end result will be in terms of others perceptions I am not sure. I know that I have given it my full attention. Terror of failing can cripple creative thinking, free thinking and actually living freely.
There is, of course, another side to this coin and that is fear of succeeding. What happens if I do cook the most wonderful curry know to man? People might praise me, I might have to actually feel good about myself. And then what? The fight is won. I have succeeded, others have validated this... and yet I still feel empty.
A fear of success is solely about how I actually feel as a person. Do I inherently feel a failure? Inherently feeling wrong and failed is a huge driver to constantly look for the thing that will patch this failure up. A new relationship, a new car, the perfect suit that makes me look like a success. Deep down, we all need to feel like we are good worthy people. Once this becomes entrenched success and failure become defunct words. I now don't believe in these words. I don't 'fail', I don't even know what failure means. I can make mistakes, I can make a decision I later regret or can see it was ill-judged. I don't 'fail' though. Why would anything be a failure?
The same with success. In myself I don't feel a 'success', I feel a worthy person but not necessarily a successful person. The two words are too intrinsically linked to modern perceptions that are nothing but unhealthy for people. Young people are so pressured in schools to NOT fail. Young people shouldn't even be in contact with this word. They should be taught that no one fails. Exams shouldn't be a fail or a pass. To use such strong labels can stick for a lifetime
I leave you with a quote from the Dalai Lama. It is worth musing on: "Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it."
FYI... I have just burnt my curry. Shit.