The Art Of Failure
I have become aware of a possible image problem this blog might have. I get it. A blog about failure sounds like a total buzzkill. A blog about failure doesn’t have the sexiest “Click” appeal. A blog about failure doesn’t exactly rise to the top search engine pages. What sites get traffic? Sites that show the “How’s” of Failure. How to succeed after failing. How to learn from mistakes. How to pick up the pieces and move on. What does my blog offer? Tales of depression and stories that dwell on failure rather than moving forward. So, yeah, the pitch was always going to be a tough sell.
The genesis of this blog has never been my obsession with my own perceived failures. Rather it grew from my discussions about those perceived failures. This started with a career coach I employed and continues today with my ongoing sessions with my therapist. Our discussions intrigue me. How could others see me as a success when I only see failure? Yes, most of that is just my depression talking. The questions remain valid even after Zoloft has muffled my self-loathing inner voice. I still wonder about these ideas of failure in general, failures of anybody, failures of anything, failures of society, failures of the individual. My goal for this blog was never intended to re-litigate my own failures (I do that plenty enough in my own head). Rather it is to discuss questions like what is a failure, who is a failure, why is a failure a failure?
I suppose because I started this blog about failure, people inferred that I was proclaiming myself an “expert” in failure. And by association, people conclude that I still consider myself a failure. While my experiences that I call “failures” might serve as inspirations for my blogposts, ultimately my hope is that anybody, yes you too, can discuss some of your own ideas of failure. These might be inspired by your own experience, your own failures, real, perceived, misconstrued, or otherwise.
Towards that end, a modicum of success has emerged. Some discussions online have occurred and even some posts here in the TRADING POST (thanks guys!). Again, some folks questioned: Should this not be a blog about success? About how we learn from our failures? About how every failure is just an opportunity to learn?
First my friend, Bill Vander Lugt, posted in the FORUM asking me very pointed questions. It made me examine again this blog’s identity. He first proposed, yes there are situations in which we feel trapped (career, relationships, obligations) on a life-emcompassing scale. He then argued that finding my way out of my career GroundHog Day is the true success. Perhaps it’s fear of the unknown that makes me consider it and myself a failure to have left that hamster wheel of a career. And perhaps I’m too quick to cast aspersions on those websites that turn failure into success.
A different person on Facebook questioned my blog's true motivation as well:
It reminded me of a conversation I had with a retired businessman. I explained my writing to him at which he just scoffed. “I don’t believe in failure. I had a business that went bankrupt. I didn’t call it a failure. I used the opportunity to start a brand new career.” He had recast himself as a pioneer, and then went on to lecture me on why I was wrong to write about failure.
See a trend here? I have no problem with recasting failures as opportunities, educational moments, or life lessons. Even my own failures. Despite my depression-warped opinion of myself, it does not prevent me from seeing the value of failure. My cynicism towards things like inspirational quotes about failure comes from my innate pessimism, and a lifetime of sarcasm, but not from an inability to see the positive.
As I had said in my introductory blogpost, so many websites, blogs, and videos already litter the internet touting the value of failure. Indeed many sites tell you one MUST have failure to find your way to success. I would just be yet one more voice in an already crowded choir, all singing how failure is ultimately good. Granted, a depressed slightly more insane voice, but not a unique voice sticking out. At the other end of the spectrum we have websites that show failure in all of its comedic glory. Anything. From (usually) guys jumping off roofs to prove…who the hell knows, to someone in a colossal accident after doing the most mundane thing. Check out FailArmy.com, epicfail.com or about a million clips on Youtube.
Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy both types of these failure sites. I enjoy learning important lessons from successful people. I also enjoy slapstick videos of people failing at life. But what about the in between? Sometimes failure is neither funny nor inspirational. Are we so afraid of failure that we either have to learn from it or be able to laugh at it? Can we not have a space to just say, “Yup, I failed. And here’s why–”?
And as I wrote this post that you’re reading, another contribution came in to the Trading Post. This one from a Twitter friend of mine, Andy (@mrcatallus). He told about the failure in his own life, his outlook on meaningful employment. There were reasons. There was self-blame. There were battles with anxiety. There was the constant worry about job and money. Yet amidst all of this concern was still hope. There were notions for what would be a success. There was a spectrum, a range, rather than an all or nothing. The conversation was short, just a few emails back and forth actually. I asked some open-ended questions and Andy responded. But in doing such a simple thing, by asking and discussing some simple ideas, the concept of the blog began to finally materialize from concept to action. It was a small start, but it was a start.
Other comments and discussions have taken place online. They might be the start of more talk about failure. They inform me. Are they the start of a trend? Heather, a friend of mine from Philly told me she reads the blog and describes it as “The Art Of Failure.” I liked the sound of that. It doesn't have to be the dull, dreary, and depressed House Of Failure that one envisions. (Ironically my most popular posts have been about my depression, but I think that says more about you guys than about my blog...)
I’m going to keep writing. It helps me. It motivates me in a world where very little does. It quiets the inner voice telling me I’m a complete failure. I will write regardless of the number of “visits, or “clicks” or responses and offerings I get. I have and will always value any and all comment, content, and copy that you share. So, yeah, even a couple of interactions is a pretty big deal. I’d love to hear more from any or all of you. I’ll try to respond a bit faster than I did to Bill or Andy.