“Fear of failure is one attitude that will keep you at the same point in your life” -Byron Pulsifer
This was the quote I chose for my senior quote in my high school yearbook. I also find it ironic that I’m writing this shortly after I received my bachelor’s degree, but this is my true heart and must be expressed.
Why is it that everyone except me is proud of this accomplishment? So many congratulations and kind words from others but what good is that if I feel no contentment myself? To me, this degree is simply a piece of paper with my name on it that costs thousands of dollars.
I think of the skits on Kanye West’s first album, College Dropout, where there was a full dialogue about degrees.
“I’m in school, [and] these guys are out here making money all these ways but I’m spending mine to be smart, you know why? Because when I die buddy, you know what’s gonna keep me warm? That’s right, those degrees.” – School Spirit Skit 2
“[My dad] was so greedy with degrees, he even took my degree. And now, I’m just glad he left me these, because all the regular homeless people have newspaper, and look what I have. These are documented, my father left them to me, and I’m gonna leave them to my kids. I’m gonna learn too. I’m gonna get super smart, so I too can die, without money, but I’ll be the smartest dead guy. Who else has that? – Lil Jimmy Skit
This is almost to say that degrees are worthless in the grand scheme of things, but that’s not what this post is about.
Failure is a common part of life. Sometimes we fail exams. Sometimes we fail drug tests. Sometimes we see failure as a character flaw, other times we learn from our failures. Sometimes other people will reinforce our failures and we attribute that to our self-worth.
One thing to remember is that failure is no means to an end. If you fail at something, you may succeed at something else. Failure and success are both fleeting, though. They don’t last, but we tend to morph an identity out of them.
We all have vivid images of what a “failure” looks like as well as a “success.” I think these are relative to the individual.
One may make a ton of money from their own business and be able to support their family and partake in miscellaneous activities and splurge on material things. But, that same person may be in a failing marriage.
Perceived failure can also be attributed to comparing yourself to others. You could log on to any social media platform right now and see someone’s post and immediately feel like a failure. This is only because people tend only share their successes and achievements, and if not that, it is usually bad news that people will sympathize with and send their condolences.
All of these things garner the same kind of attention and instant gratification that makes us feel like less of a failure, while others look at these posts and may feel like more of a failure.
Now in the practical sense, failure can be internally damaging. You didn’t land your dream job. You didn’t make the basketball team. You didn’t get into law school. You got turned down by your crush. A normal response to these events could be “Oh, it’s not the end of the world,” or, “Try harder next time.”
While sometimes it can be helpful depending on the circumstance, the concern doesn’t always seem genuine.
The root of failure and success is happiness. If you fail at something, of course it won’t make you happy. If you succeed at something, you might be happy, but it’s almost guaranteed it won’t last.
For someone who has failed several times in their life, the thought of failure doesn’t seem to phase me anymore. It’s just a part of life. I would much rather indulge in something that will bring me satisfaction that isn’t dependent on success or failure. Something like community service or volunteer work, that actually helps people, is probably the most satisfying thing humans can do. It transcends failure, and may look like a success on the surface, but it is beyond success too, because it is beyond the ego.
Failure and success have to be personal for them to mean anything. Because you are able to define them for yourself and perceive success and failure on your own accord.
You are not a failure nor are you a success. You may fail, and you may succeed, but defining yourself by these two terms creates a fixed mindset that leaves no room for improvement. So whatever it is you are doing, failure or success, just continue to move forward.