The perils of failure
I consider myself to be a part of the millennial generation and since I’m just going through the initial years of my adulthood, I often find myself at an impasse with failure. I often find my peers struggling with the actualization of success. We deprive ourselves of happiness all the time. What I’ve really observed in this case is, we try, we talk ,we stress ourselves out and we keep trying till we attain what we want to but I’ve rarely seen anyone actually be happy because of a success, this thing that we’ve poured our sweat and time into just becomes another high, another fleeting feeling, another thing to recall about.
I personally believe that we suffer from failure more due to a few major difference between us and the generation before us. Although I might agree and believe that in the longer run failure is an important factor to not just succeed in life but to our own growth. There’s nothing that offers more immediate feedback to us than failure because we know what we did, and we think that we must’ve gone wrong somewhere that we failed at this task, this goal. A few fortunate of us immediately know where they’ve gone wrong and are motivated enough to continue onto the next iteration where they might come across another failure or success and move on forward, so on so forth. But I guess what we usually don’t talk about is the general phenomena, of how the majority of us never actually rebound from a failure, that this task that we poured our lives into, that we gave our 100% to, or so we think, is everything that matters and hence never try again. Even if a few of us want to try we never know where we went wrong, the unfortunate fact about failure at large is that most things aren’t as neat as scientific experiments which can be closely pulled apart looking at the steps its comprised of and understanding what failed, that not all failures are so obvious about the mistakes we made, we aren’t told what these mistakes are, we are just expected to know. But I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of the issues that we really need to solve if we ever are to normalize this notion of success and build a healthy relationship with failure.
I think it starts with the idea that we need to look past this dichotomy of success and failure and instead of treating it as strictly binary, we treat it as fuzzy. Perspective seeing is an important skill that one needs to learn if they ever wish to grow towards success, of all the great people I’ve read about this notion that they saw even a failure as some degree of success, that they succeeded at the discovery of what was going wrong puts them in a different league. I’m not trying to sell the notion of perspective seeing, it’s simply exhausting, mentally, to constantly force yourself to see in a different perspective even when its a normal day let alone doing it after a failure when you feel differently, these feelings of failure are entirely immediate to us and rule supreme and they render us ineffective to look at things objectively anymore. So instead of trying to work the failure or around it, we put ourselves in a constant feedback loop of never-stopping self demeaning internal monologue.
I think one thing I’ve not really spoken about is how did we even arrive here. Majorly it is because of the glorification of both failure and success. We see too many people talk about their failure and how they moved past it and how they learned from it and this mostly just makes us more sad that we can’t even figure out what our failure is about or why we do not have this “learning” attitude of critically analysing our failure at all. One prime example or instance we are often given is the 20000 failures of Edison before his discovery of a lightbulb and the thoughts around it, but it’s wrong to consider most experiences, tasks and goals as meticulously and obviously detailed as a closely controlled scientific experiment. Another thing why we keep failing is because of the environments we groom ourselves in. In this overly connected world, Success sells and it sells even more, like hot pancakes, the younger you are when you achieve it. So when you do something you deem a success and succeed at a task, only to find later that someone else did it at a far younger age, in a much smarter way, although we might have been proud of ourselves just moments ago, our thoughts now turn to an induced failure episode where we consider ourselves worthless since we couldn’t even figure out the way the other person did it in. Our environments are so geared and designed to popularize the outliers that it makes the majority of us feel like failures even though we might not be and this deprives us of the satisfaction that is needed to have a healthy relationship with success. This gets worse when you actually fail and then look at these outliers. We are so good at comparing ourselves that Im afraid it must be ingrained in our instincts to do so and leads to me to hypothesize that if Edison were alive today even he would’ve felt worthless for it’s not really his fault but the environment which popularizes success and makes outliers much more available. One often lesser spoken thing is that we might not be entirely responsible for our state and failure, but only if we lived in closed systems, the reality is often much more complicated and our failures sometimes are caused entirely by agents foreign to us and blaming your own self for this is a very poor way of evaluation.
I think to solve this problem, one place we need to start at is the rejection of comparison, or the rejection of study of successes, that the reason successes in older times felt a lot more relatable was because they were from relatively older people whom we deemed wise and we ourselves think that we will also succeed with age. Though most of us talk about the trite that whatever you do there is someone out there who can do it 10x better, we might be one of the first generations to actually look at it happening not just once but frequently. As long as we don’t pursue a higher level of drive, that is the an improvement over our previous iteration, our previous attempt, I think the feedback loops of our environment will eat us alive never allowing us to move forward. Lately I have been also entertaining the thought, that if we do engage in study of successes, then it should be from an emulating perspective, where in our attitude towards failure should be similar, because experiences make a person.
I probably sound like someone who has victimized the current generation of what the circumstances they are in does to them. But I do believe that failure is an important step. I think beyond the usual factor of improvement, failure does something much more important that is the realization of the fact that we often have a long long way to go ahead. This self-actualization is something that you need to get used to. Because failures are more common than success is. If you flip a coin, the chance of getting heads consecutively diminishes by half each time. And even when you are at the 4th flip the chance of flipping a head now becomes 0.0625, succeeding all the time is implausible and deluding yourself in believing so is just like buying a front seat to a long show of disappointments.