Essay,  Mindset

Fail Big or Shut Up

I was born lucky. Maybe I was born privileged. Maybe I’m blessed.  I like to think I am charmed. Whatever words I use to describe this situation, the truth is that I believe that I have benefited from an abundance of good things that I did not have to work to receive.  I’ve been very, very lucky. And while I have also faced some very bad things, those were never luck. I don’t think so. The very bad things I’ve experienced have always been a result of either very bad decisions on my part or a series of kind of bad decisions on my part.  I’ve been an agent in my own destruction during those times that I’ve struggled or suffered. I’ve been an idiot. I’ve taken bad chances. I made mistakes. And to get out of them, I’ve had to take action to create  better circumstances, resolve problems and get back on track with my charmed life. And it’s been very hard at times, but again, probably not as hard as it would be for someone who wasn’t born lucky like me.

One of my very bad choices is what has led me to study dating, human relationships, human interaction and also drives my passion to share a common sense approach to nonsensical love and romance. Had I read my blog, I rationalize, maybe I would not have made the same mistakes.  I say this to motivate myself to share more and write more and not because I actually believe I would have been able to change the course of my life. Surely I’d been warned and advised and was smarter than my choices.  I was going to be an idiot and no one could stop me!  I think on this we can all relate.

Where I may have an advantage is in being born lucky. I have amazing parents. I have the best of friends. I’ve been able to take advantage of opportunities to learn and explore. I don’t suffer from depression or anxiety (more than the normal) and I have great health. When I see others who suffer and have to manage a chemical imbalance or struggle with a health concern, I feel so incredibly lucky because I know their troubles take up a lot of time and energy and give them stress. I did nothing to deserve this. I am charmed!

In addition to these general strokes of luck I have had many others. I hope to write about them more here but for now there is one I want to mention.

I’ve been reading Scott Adam’s book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

In this book, Mr. Adams talks about the importance of failure to bring you closer to success.  He mentions that hyper focus on goals will distract us from the benefits of failure.  For example, he has started many failed businesses, but in so doing he has gained tremendous knowledge in business, start-ups, computers, etc.  Each failure was an education that prepared him for his next venture.

I have also failed a few start-up businesses and a few other things. And I have similarly had the opinion that these were not losses but instead were time spent learning and growing.  When reading this book, I wondered how it was that I was lucky enough to have this attitude on my own.  It seems this is not typical to see the good in everything and spin a failure to a positive and that brought me to remember one of my greatest strokes of luck… my parents.

I have the best parents. I know I mentioned this, but it’s true. I realize not everyone had great parents, and for those who didn’t, it’s wonderful that we have mentors, influencers and leaders to look up to who write books and give lectures and guide us in our lives. But it can be hard to find and identify them.  Being born to two of them was a very lucky thing indeed!

When I was young, like any girl I would go to him with my achievements expecting a pat on the head and congratulations. I’m sure for some I even expected him to make a BIG DEAL over me and throw me a parade! I can’t say I don’t still hope for that sometimes.

But my father was often busy and didn’t have time to hand out participation awards every time I twirled or caught a ball.  To him, lavishing me with adoring praise over tiny triumphs was my mothers job. I don’t remember what little achievement I brought to him in hopes for a prize but I remember that instead of celebration he told me

“I don’t want to hear about every little thing you do well. You’re going to do a lot of things well. If you want a prize, go tell your mother. She’ll give you a prize.  If you want me to get excited about something then come and tell me about your failures. And make it good.”

It was hard to get his attention at times. He worked hard, traveled often and was very busy when we were growing up. But he was always warm and fun and I was always trying to get his attention.  And in that moment, I believed he gave me the secret to getting his attention when in fact he’d given  me the secret to life.

I was lucky that I learned these lessons from my father. He wanted to celebrate me when I was pushing myself, there was no negative stigma on failure. The only stigma was not trying, not working, not believing in myself.  He didn’t even dismiss my desire to for praise but simply redirected me to get praise from my mother. She’s very warm and enthusiastic and it comes naturally to her. Another lucky chance that I have her also! But if I wanted the prized attention of my very busy father, I had to make it worth it.

You may not have learned this lesson growing up, but you may learn it reading Scott Adam’s book. Or you may learn it from this post.  It is always a good thing to have some luck in your favor, but it is just as good to create your own luck.  I could have ignored his advice. I could have interpreted that I should go be some massive screw up and fail criminally! But I chose to impress him with my great big wonderful failures and I dare say he’s still impressed when I fall short of my goals.

The little successes aren’t worth talking about. You’re going to have a lot of those. It’s the failures, the times you pushed yourself farther, took a chance, stepped out of your comfort zone and went for it that are worth talking about. Those are the stories to bring to home, the lessons learned, the times of growth. Those are the true achievements because most people simply don’t have it in them to fail. Be bold, take chances, push yourself and fail big. Careful, predictable successes aren’t worth mentioning.

If you want a pat on the head, you know where you can find it.  Most of the media and social media is awash with participation prizes and empty compliments. If you want to get my attention or any busy person’s attention, make your story worth it, fail big or shut up.


  • The Daytime Renegade

    Hell yeah! Failure is where you get the most education. Your father sounds like a wise man! I know i my life that failures also serve the purpose of keeping you humble and alert to blind spots that excessive pride can create.

    And talk about synchronicity: I just finished Adams’s book a few weeks ago and am working on my review of it just now.

  • kzhowell

    Failure is the catalyst for success. No school, no seminar, no all knowing mentor can teach a person how to succeed. Only failure teaches us to pay attention to what really happens, only failure teaches us how not to fail. Failure is as necessary to success as it is to life in general. If we never take a chance, if we never dream and fall flat on our faces chasing them, then we never learn to build the foundation of success. Wether a person wants to build a business or marry his high school sweetheart the one essential task he or she must perform is to try. What we learn from the sting of failure is as necessary as the rush we receive from seeing our efforts bear fruit. Failure is, in and of itself, an ending. But now we know where that path leads. Now we know what NOT to do. Now that we have the failures out of the way, we can get on with the business of succeeding.

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