The fear of not failing

by maximusaurus

People often talk about the intoxicating rush of success. But what about Success’s twin sister, Failure? I think people underestimate the latter’s addictive nature.

I know that might sound counter-intuitive, so let me give you an example. Back in late 2013, after finishing University, I was searching for a job, and I was having about as much luck as a tree frog in the Sahara. In spite of my efforts, I was still unemployed 6 months after graduating.

In a moment of self-reflection, however, I realized something; deep down, a significant part of me wanted to fail. Because if I succeeded, then I would have to go through all the stress of job interviews, getting up early, working long hours, etc. On the other hand, if I failed, I could continue to wallow in self-pity, (itself an intensely addictive emotion) I’d have the masochistic satisfaction of being proven right in my pessimistic outlook, and I wouldn’t have to deal with the discomfort of change. Failure had become a comfortable refuge for me. An easy way out.

In the wake of this revelation, I realized that this same logic applied to many other areas of my life as well. By and large, it wasn’t failure I was scared of; it was success. To fail is easy. To succeed is hard. And I was limiting myself by settling for less than I was capable of.

Mind you, this is not to say that failure has no value. On the contrary, it can be a vital ingredient of the mortar with which we build success. Failure teaches us what works and what doesn’t. But even good and useful things can be misused. Morphine can be immensely helpful if you’re injured and in pain, but you wouldn’t want to get too comfortable with it.

Failure should be an adviser, not a master. It’s okay to fail. Just be careful you don’t grow too fond of its soft shackles, as I did.

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