The Importance Of Failure

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“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” Dr Robert Schuller.

I have been afflicted by a debilitating condition as far as I can remember; it is called perfection paralysis. I have analyzed my childhood and examined the intricate dysfunctions of my family and, although very enlightening I learnt that past experiences do shape who we are, but now is the time to stop dwelling and blaming and move forward.

Dr Wayne W Dyer described this state in his book “Your Erroneous Zones”, “The maxim “nothing avails but perfection” may be spelled P A R A L Y S I S”.

Nothing will ever be achieved without failure and absolutely nothing will ever be learned without adversity. This is fact.

It is believed Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” As humans we generally avoid failure in order to avoid the anxiety it produces. This attitude of course can stop us on our tracks altogether, because let’s face it if we have no guarantee of doing something perfectly and therefore succeeding, why bother putting ourselves through trying. Right?

Andrew Neitlich received his MB from Harvard Business School in 1991. He has a consulting practice which focuses on assisting professionals build successful businesses. On his blog on “Site Point”, he says, “GET out there and fail! Stop trying to be perfect. Put up a site and keep improving it. Get out there and keep learning and refining your approach. Stop being an A student and start being a B or even C student. Try lots of things and see what works – and then build on that.”

If Mr. Edison hadn’t continued in his quest of finding that which didn’t work we not be making use of the light bulb, although it is argued that it was originally invented by Humphrey Davy in 1806. In any case its invention certainly came about through persistence in spite of failures and, in 1879 Edison finally registered its patent.

British politician Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
That is the trick; to persevere and not lose faith in one’s abilities and ambitions. Not to be discouraged by feelings of defeat, because every false start will lighten the path to truth and making mistakes is the greatest way to learn what to avoid in the future. It is all too simple to blame and deny in regards to failings, but this is such a waste of life experience. There is so much out there to discover, if only we would stop being paralyzed by the fruitless quest for perfection.

Victor MacGill, the author of “When the Dragon Stirs: Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories Myths and Legend” gave a talk at the “Dunedin Spiritualist Church” in August 2004 aptly titled “The importance of failure.” At one point he discussed failure in regards to spiritual development and he stated, “The Buddhists say, “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him”. If you see what appears to be spiritual perfection while still on the path, you are just deluding yourself, you have made a shallow image of God to meet your own needs, rather than embracing the true reality of what God is. Your God must die, before you can meet the true God. That’s why Friedrich Nietzsche said, “God is dead, Long live God”.

Mr. MacGill claims that finding blame outside of ourselves is futile and even our God must at times fail us in order for us to grow. Most of us have the limited view that if we live a good decent life, good karma will prevail and nothing bad is ever going to happen to us. “That’s OK”, Victor says, “But it’s a pretty limited view of God, seeing God only as a good daddy who will look after me and make everything all right, rather than taking on our responsibility as a vibrant co-creator of this unfolding universe.”

Henry James said that “Until you try you don’t know what you can’t do.” There will be no growth if there are no errors. So get out there! Do not be afraid to fail, because it is only through your flaws that you will envision your strength and abilities. Think about that. It is by getting out of your comfort zone that you can discover your true abilities and potentials. It’s hard. It’s an extremely arduous exercise. But there’s no reasonable justification for not having tried. When you are nearing the end of your life, remember what is most painful is regret for what you didn’t do, for you will never know what great heights you may have been able to climb. Now, that would hurt.

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