Defining Failure

Is the true equation for success “Challenges + Determination + Failure (+ Failure + Failure + Failure) – Giving Up”?

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By nature, I am competitive. Ask anyone who plays Monopoly with me. And like most people, I hate losing and I hate failing, whether it is a game, project, task, or class. Nothing is more defeating than to have to admit that you are unable to do something. Looking back at previous situations where I did everything in my power to succeed; at times I have proved the phrase, “You can do whatever you put your mind to” to be sadly inaccurate. It is not easy to admit defeat, chalking your efforts up as a failure and moving forward to a different course of action. However, sometimes that was my only option. Failing is a terrible feeling, but it taught me that while failure is inevitable, there is always an alternative option, even if it feels like a slightly less desirable one. 

While failure most often times is the end of one path, it is the beginning of a new one. There is simply not only one road to get your destination. I know when I am driving home from work, I have seven, if not eight, ways that I could ultimately choose to get home. Each route has different components, aspects, variables, yet they all lead me to the same place. While your career is that winding road you’re on, there are multiple paths and sometimes you find yourself on a new one. And how amazing that gift can actually be. While I can fully admit that failing felt miserable, it opened my eyes to a completely new trajectory—one that continued to lead me down a whole new path. And for that, I am thankful. 

Failing is never fun, but it is imperative to success. Failing creates new beginnings and new opportunities, which may bring additional failures but ultimately provides lessons. 

Logically speaking, how do multiple failures still add up to a success? Is the true equation for success “Challenges + Determination + Failure (+ Failure + Failure + Failure) – Giving Up”? 

Success is ultimately reaching one’s goal or objective. In many cases, there are multiple routes to the destination of success and different pit stops along the way. And failing on one road needs to be the realization that a different course is available. 

Look at your failings and see them solely as setbacks. Allow yourself to fail, then continue on. Everyone knows that the comeback is always greater than any setback. I would say that failing is one of the least fun topics to discuss. Yet reflecting back on my failures, I have seen true growth in the form of skill development and in knowledge gained. I have not yet had an epic, defining moment of failure. Maybe I never will. However, if I do, I hope to accept the experience with grace and maintain the ability to remain optimistically positive in my pursuit of success.

So, fail. Then wallow (briefly) in self-pity and enjoy a gallon of (insert guilty pleasure here (…donuts, cheese, ice cream, wine…). And then …. And then get up with grace and keep going. Don’t allow your journey to end in an ellipsis…. 

Excerpt from Mid-Reach, a book about being in the messy middle of one’s career (as I currently am), hoping to inspire, empower and celebrate failing while in the midst of success.

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