Failure. It's sucks.
Growing up I always considered myself to be quite sporty. Trying out for sport teams at school was easy; I made it on every team I tried out for. Then grade 8 happened. My first year in a brand new school. I remember walking into try outs for the volleyball team along with 40 other students.
The coach told us a list of those who made it would be posted outside the gym office door on a certain day. I don't remember why but I wasn't able to be at school the day the team was posted so I asked a friend to check for me. If I made it I didn't want to miss the first practice.
She told me she was pretty sure she saw my name. 'Of course,' I thought. 'Thats what I thought would happen.'
I sauntered into the gym for the first practice, stopping by the office door to double check the list. Not really too worried, my eyes scanned that piece of paper fairly quickly, and then again more slowly. My name wasn't on that list.
The coach was standing near by and I could see the uncomfortable look on her face. Her uncomfortableness didnt compare the embarrassment I was feeling. I felt like someone had just kicked me in the gut. All at once I wanted to disappear instantly and fall over and cry. The feeling of walking out of the gym was similar to that of a walk of shame after a night of partying. I felt like everyone in there was watching and I had 'failure' stamped on my forehead in big bold letters. What was this feeling I was experiencing? I wanted to make sure I never felt it again.
So, in an attempt to avoid it, I never tried out for volleyball again.
Fast forward to 2003. I had asked my grandma to teach me how to knit. Every year she'd knit me a new pair of mittens and I wanted to learn to make my own. I was feeling pretty confident in my skills and how quickly I was picking it up. when I went to show my grandma my progress she laughed. Turns out I had attached the thumb inside out. I felt dumb. And that's when I quit knitting. If I couldn't get it right the first time, I wouldn't do it at all.
I still have the bag on knitting with the half finished mittens in my closet. That bag has traveled to Australia with me, moved to different houses and cities multiple times, and each time I came across it I'd think about opening it up and trying again but thats as far as I would get. You see, I struggled with thinking that if I couldn't do it perfectly I just shouldn't do it.
2011 takes the cake with my biggest failure to date: my marriage. If you want to know more about it, I have a whole blog post about it here. That's my biggest personal failure on record. It rocked me. It changed me. With any failure, big, small or how ever you choose to see it, you can never go back to how you viewed life before those moments. And that's not a bad thing. It can actually be one of the most beautiful things you experience in life.
But if I'm being 100% honest, I still try to avoid situations that have the possibility of producing feelings of failure. Just a couple years ago I brought out the knitting and started practicing again. I had to do a lot of googling to get the hang of it again, but it did come back. As I looked at my knitting that night and saw how crooked and uneven it was, I resisted the urge to pull it apart and start over. But instead, I saw its own beauty and uniqueness in its imperfection. Isn't that what it's all about? We all are stitched together with our own experiences, good and bad. They make us uniquely and imperfectly who we are and how we're different from everyone else. What a beautiful gift.
What I'm learning is the acceptance of failure... Because life will have failures. But guess what, I'm still here, and Im a better person now than before. There's no way to succeed in everything and the only way to continue on is to have risk. Unless you do nothing, that is the one guarantee to never fail.
Recognizing these moments, and the inevitability of failure in life, has shifted my perspective, and helped me loosen the grip fear has on me.
Ive got this gut feeling I'm not alone in this. Does what I said has you nodding your head and thinking "girl, you're preaching to the choir!"? If so, leave me a comment. It's amazing how much it helps knowing someone else gets it!
Want to hear about how I deal with failure in business? Check out this podcast episode.