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November 18, 2012

Failure as a Driving Force

There is something that's universal. It happens to everybody, be it kids trying to walk for the first time to somebody running for President, and everything in between (and even beyond).

Yes, we all fail. In fact, we fail a lot. Life is full of little failures when we try and do something.

Some people let failure paralyze them. Sometimes it's not even failure, but the fear of failure that keeps us from moving forward. We come up with some brilliant idea that we want to try, but then we don't put it into action because we're afraid it might not succeed. Maybe it isn't as brilliant as we thought it was. Or maybe we just don't have the skill or expertise to pull it off.

When we think of failure, we often think of these big things. We don't realize that there are many days that are full of little failures. You tried to fix the squeaky hinge on the door but it was beyond your capability and you had to ask for help. You tried to fix the clogged drain. Maybe you tried to figure out on your own how to hide columns on an Excel spreadsheet but then finally had to ask somebody.

We all do it. Failure is a part of our lives.

Wow, that was depressing. Isn't this supposed to be an inspirational post?

Yes it is.

The thing is, failure can be, and often is, a driving force in our lives, forcing us to improve our minds, our bodies, or even just our everyday life skills.

Had to ask about hiding columns on your spreadsheet? Maybe learning that taught you how to figure out other things in Excel without help. Through failure, you learn things about yourself, what you can and can't do, and maybe what you can teach yourself or have others teach you how to do. Maybe that failure inspires you to learn more about the subject so you don't have to ask for help again.

The best failures inspire us to do better, to be better. They open up new avenues to explore, new thought processes to implement. They make us better people.

A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted and Facebooked (wow, that's become a verb now?) a quote from a great post on the Inkpunks blog by Andrew Romine, called "Failure: You're Doing it Right." The quote was this:
"I throw myself at failure and hope I miss."
I think that's a wonderful quote, because it acknowledges that failure is always a possibility. But it's not something to be frightened of.

The entire post is well-worth reading.

Andrew lists three things to keep in mind when you find that the fear of failure is keeping you paralyzed. One of those is that failure can actually be a good way to discover your strengths.
"Sometimes failing at something is the only way to discover what you’re really good at. This is a less intuitive (and perhaps less pleasant) aspect of failure, but still a very important one. You have to be willing to put in long hours in any career or craft to get good at it. In those hundreds or thousands of hours of writing, drawing, puppetry, or even accounting, you’ll find your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll discover where your passion really lies."
I found this post really inspiring.

I love to write, but I have found myself falling into lazy funks that have kept me from actually producing anything. This blog went dormant for three months, and for weeks at a time even before that. I still haven't produced more than one story that I've actually submitted to a magazine for publication.

A big part of that is fear of failure. There's also the "why would anybody care what I think about something" feeling too, but it's more than that. It's the "why keep doing something that nobody's ever going to read?" trap as well.

That kind of thinking is poisonous, and while it has held me back from doing things, it hasn't held me back from the dream of doing them. I still feel inspired when I talk to writers such as Sandra Wickham (a writer and contributor to the Inkpunks blog and also one of my favourite Twitter follows who I had the pleasure of talking to again at V-Con this year) or other writers who I follow on Twitter or read their blogs.

When I came out of V-Con this year, I truly did feel inspired by all of the author and publisher panels that I attended, and the wonderful conversation I had with Connie Willis (an excellent SF author who was the guest of honour).

But then I got home and that same old fear hit.

It's something I'm really working hard to get over, and I think re-starting this blog and keeping it going as I have this month is a good start.

Posts like Andrew's help too.

I encourage you to check out the post because, while it's mainly about writing, it can be inspiring for anybody who finds themselves paralyzed by that same failure fear, even if it's not writing-related.

And check out the rest of the Inkpunks blog too if you're a writer. There's some good stuff there.


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