“Failure is always an option.” – Adam Savage, Mythbusters
In sixth grade, I decided I would join the basketball team. I was not particularly coordinated or athletic. My family had recently moved from Tennessee to Kansas and my thick southern accent paired with my less than stylish hand-me-downs made it difficult to fit in. I thought maybe joining the team was the key to making friends and becoming popular.
It was not.
I lasted about three weeks before I gave up and quit. I was so worried that my Dad would be disappointed. I was upset with myself for giving up and failing. It’s one of my earlier memories of complete failure. Here I am closing in on 30 years later and I still think about it sometimes.
I wish that was the only failure that pops into my head frequently. In the 30 years since quitting basketball, I have failed at so many things it’s hard to keep track. If I look back there is a trail of failure behind me. Exams, classes, interviews, jobs, relationships, hobbies, gym memberships, half-written books, and of course this blog. It’s easy to count failures. I can remember them vividly and so much more frequently than my successes.
I dwell on the one time this week I was short with my kids out of frustration. I easily forget all the times this week I was patient with them.
I don’t sit in bed thinking about all the times I absolutely kicked ass and accomplished a lot at work but that stupid mistake I made this week will keep popping into my head for weeks to come.
Maybe you do that too. Maybe you are like me and focus on your failures and obsess over every mistake. The only thing I can tell you is the quote by Adam Savage at the top of this post is true, “Failure is always an option.”
So why does that matter?
I am not going to stop failing and neither are you. It’s part of life. Everyone fails. Everyone, without exception. The TED talk gurus, tech billionaires, superhero actors, politicians, and sports stars all fail every day. Failure is not an excuse to stop trying it’s a reason to keep going. If I look back at the trail of failures behind me it’s a reminder of how many times I picked myself up and kept going.
Maybe I can’t stop fretting over every failure but I can remind myself that failure is a part of life. It took me over two years to post another blog post. Maybe I never finish a book, maybe it takes another two years to post after this one but that doesn’t mean I stop trying. I am the person I am today not simply in spite of my failures but because of them.
Failure is not an excuse to stop trying it’s a reason to keep going.