“Coffee’s For Closers Only”: On learning to cope with failure after failure
Author Dennis Waitley once wrote, “failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker…”
I’m an educator at heart and I want to make the pursuit of learning a core part of who I am, what I do, and where my life is going. So how lucky I am to have such a teacher in my life as failure.
I’ll preface this piece by saying that when I say “failure” or refer to failures, I don’t necessarily mean the big kinds of failures: bankruptcies filed, championships lost, comrades slain, or (gulp) divorce.
I mean little failures. Everyday failings that creep up on you. Decisions you make that compound over time and end up biting you in the ass and leaving you at a loss for words other than: ”Why didn’t I see that coming?”
The truth is that now that I’m on my way to being a loving husband, I do see some of these failures creeping up on me and I’m trying to turn this into, as Mr. Waitley suggests, an educational experience.
I’m a forgetful person. There’s not much use in trying to trace the source of my absent-mindedness because I’m living my life now and I have to deal with this side of me now. I can say with honesty that I’ve gotten better. I’ve found a tool that has helped me turn around some of my more troublesome nagging failures and I know what’s at stake if I can’t make some changes.
What is there to do on the way to such a radical shift? I’m new to so many adult things and I’m not even, in my own view, truly living an adult life. My own older brother to whom I have undying respect for and look up to more than anyone else told me just a week or so ago that he constantly faces adult decisions that he, by his own admission, has no idea how to approach at first. You just have to do it. I just have to do it too.
When I make a mistake and get chewed out for it, I want to fight back. I want to say mean, hurtful things and lay blame elsewhere and maintain that there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m learning now that I need to take these beatings. Being told that you’ve failed doesn’t mean that you are a failure. Failure is refusing to acknowledge that you’ve failed in the first place. I need to accept failure and learn from it, else it will end up burying me.
I dropped the ball this week. The Yearly Newsletter is supposed to be the project that keeps me going. It’s something that I hope can drive me to be a successful person in the future.
How invested am I in this venture? If you asked me this morning, I would have told you that I planned to simply take a break from TYN for a week.
“I have a lot of stuff going on. I’m helping to plan a party. I have packing to do. I have a full-time job. My attention is required elsewhere. I’m tired. I’m stressed…”
This Benedict is an embarrassment to the-creator-of-TYN Benedict. It’s the same Benedict that always makes empty excuses to fight back. The same one who tries to find others at fault for things he failed (there it is again) to remember or to do. It’s the Benedict I don’t want to be and I’m staring him down at a pivotal moment in my life.
Sure, I don’t have the space I’m looking for just now or the atmosphere I’m after to be as creative as I’d like to be. Whether I am able to acquire that space or atmosphere in the coming weeks or months is irrelevant. I define my own space and my own time. I choose how I use my time and I haven’t been using it wisely for as long as I can remember.
I’ve been thinking to myself lately: “What a great time to be alive!” The problem is, I’m not living the way I should be. I’m just starting to look at my failures and see myself in a proper light.
I’m no failure. I’ve come so far. I’ve done so much. I’m accomplished, in my own way, as many people are. I might be in debt, but I’m rich in many more ways than I could have predicted years ago.
My failings are the perfect way for me to teach myself who I must be. I’m never going to look forward to failing, but I must appreciate the opportunity each failure brings. The only way my failures will become my undertaker is if I dress them up and put myself in a casket for them.
And that’s never going to happen.