A few months ago, I was walking down the street with my family. It was an unusually warm day for March. I love going for family walks around town, and I love the end of winter—the feeling of freedom I get from being able to return to nature. Yet on this day, I was fairly miserable. In truth, I was having a pity party with myself, which was making it difficult to enjoy our family walk.
I felt like a failure at life that day, and I was really bummed out about it. As I complained to my husband, he kept trying to turn it around.
“But I’m about to lose my job!”
“Yeah but, through no fault of your own.”
“But every time I try to start my own endeavor it never works out!”
“Like when I tried to sell make-up so I could be a stay at home mom.”
“Yeah but, you don’t even wear makeup…you don’t even know how to apply it.”
“That’s not the point!” I argued. “And when I tried to work from home doing logistics…”
“Yeah but, again, it wasn’t the right job for you. You liked logistics, but you hate sales. And you hate marketing yourself. So, I think it’s just the choices you made…”
“I tried to do the crafting business…”
“Yeah but, you hated creating on demand. There’s a job opening at my company…?”
“Gawd no, I hate computers.”
“Okay, so… Is it really that you’re a failure, or just that there are very few things that you actually like?”
And that was the question. I wasn’t lucky enough to have a particular calling early in life. I always struggled with knowing “what I wanted to be,” but mostly because there are so many things I like, and, equally, so many things I dislike.
The point is, I had tried and have tried so many different things over the years. I’ll get an idea in my mind and I’ll say, Hey, I wonder what it would be like to do that? I’ll do a bit of research, take the necessary steps, set myself up, and then step over the cliff, expecting, each time, to fly. I tend to believe that “the Lord helps those who help themselves.” Or, that if you have the courage to take the first step, the universe will carry you the rest of the way. I believe in this concept so much that I expected to be carried each and every time. Which made it all the more painful every time I fell right on my face.
The key to success is not expectation. Who knew? My first failure was believing that, and my first success was letting it go. You can take yourself to the edge of the cliff and you can jump. Sometimes you will fly, and sometimes you will crash land. But that’s all a part of the experience of this beautiful thing called life.
Luckily, I am also someone who learns through direct experience, and this is what experience has taught me: I learn when I fail. I get an idea, I try it out, and in doing so learn what I do and don’t like about the experience. This is a lifelong process of honing myself down, learning what to cut out, what isn’t worthy of my energy, and what to add more of. All my failed experiences kind of sucked, and some of them were a little embarrassing, but they didn’t stop me from getting back up with my next new idea, trying it on like a pair of pants, deciding whether I liked the fit or whether it had enough pockets before tossing it aside. I needed these experiences in order to learn about myself, truthfully and concretely, and when all is said and done, I’m always left with a more precise idea of who me is.
I’ve learned that sometimes “helping myself” means accepting failure rather than expecting success. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that it’s best to face it, fearlessly and despite yourself. Because if you work hard, if you persevere, if you continue to whittle away the Gawd-no’s so that all that’s left are the yes-pleases, eventually, all that will remain is the most rock star version of you. That matters way more than tripping over a few stones along the way.
My life has been peppered with tiny little successes, and with huge flops thrown in now and again. But that’s just life, isn’t it? And we are meant to learn from the failures as much as the successes; from the hurt as much as the love. So long as you’re willing to pay attention to the lesson.