Don’t Just Accept Failure, Expect It!

Seriously. It’s bound to happen.

Failure and success is something we all experience. In fact, failure and success are a matter of expectations. A matter of goals.
If you don’t have a goal or an expectation—how can you tell if you succeeded or failed?

The only difference between success and failure is that success is something we embrace. We never expect failure nor accept it.
People say that you’ve got to fail in order to succeed but that is not entirely accurate. In fact, you have got to accept your failures in order to learn, grow and succeed.

To plan or not to plan?

Last summer, my life partner and I went on a long holiday which included a road trip on the West Coast and a week in New Orleans and New York. 
When we first decided to go on this trip, our hearts were set on being as free as possible throughout it. Our goal was to get out of our comfort zone. To learn and grow. 
The journey to accomplish this goal started as early as the preparation part. 
We are both highly organized people, which usually comes handy in life, but we wanted to experience what it’s like to let go. In other words, we planned to leave some things unplanned.

At first, we thought about being completely spontaneous, but we realized that we will end up wasting time and energy throughout our trip in search for accommodations. So, we booked the places we wanted to stay at but left all days completely unplanned. We were in no rush to see anything. We didn’t have a ‘must-see’ list as we usually have when we travel.
We decided to stay only in Airbnbs so we could experience each place like locals. We also wanted to get out there and speak to people —our hosts and their neighbors. In fact, we were counting on their recommendations. 

The truth is —even when you book and plan every part of your holiday, something is bound to happen. There are always things you cannot predict. 
You get sick. Something gets canceled. There’s rain. Snow. A hurricane. It was rather scary for us to follow our goal and plan as little as possible. But then we thought about it differently. We embraced the unexpected. After all, it is the unexpected experiences you remember for years to come.

Sunset at Venice Beach, LA. A minute after we took this photo, it started raining. In August. At 100F.

Two people with two carry-on luggage

And so, in August 2017, with only our passports, flight tickets and booked Airbnbs, we flew to Victoria (BC, Canada), where our trip started. 
We packed light, taking just one piece of hand luggage each for our three and a half weeks on the road.

My jet lag kept me up all night when we arrived. It was a cold and exhausting night, after over 20 hours of commuting.
I finally gave up sleeping at 5 am and walked outside to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful. The following day, I woke up with a sore throat. I thought: “is this going to ruin our whole trip? What if we both feel bad for the next week or so?”
I took a deep breath and reminded myself that everything was okay.

You see, it was easier than usual to accept this ‘failure’, an unpredictable thing that occurred because we were actually expecting it to happen. 
I spent most of that day resting and drinking tea with ginger. I didn’t feel like I was losing out on anything that day, because we didn’t have anything planned. It was that simple. Not feeling stressed, I recovered almost completely in a mere 24 hours. It’s amazing how our mental state can affects our bodies. I healed because I didn’t stress out about being sick.

Three days later, we continued to Seattle where our road trip south to Los Angeles has begun. We talked to an Uber driver on the way to a car rental place. We were speaking about cultures and the beauty of people from all over the world. Within a few minutes, we really connected. When he dropped us off, only 15 minutes after we got on, he said: “having you guys in my car has made my week! Thank you!” We felt grateful.
The guy at the car rental counter recommended his favorite local spot — Snoqualmie Falls. This was the first stop on our road trip.
And it was amazing. We would have never picked that spot if we have scripted our trip. We felt truly blessed.

What is your cabin number?

That night, we had a cabin booked in the woods by Mount Rainier. It was 9:30 pm, after a long drive of navigating in the dark (no phone signal) and with less than a quarter of a tank left, when we finally made it to our destination. The store where we were supposed to get our keys from was closed. Now what?
A guy in his pajamas approached us. He asked who we were. We explained we have a cabin booked and paid for. He said: “I’m sorry, we close at 8 pm.”
We begged him to help us. “Only if you tell me what cabin you booked then I might be able to help you out.”
Had we known the store closes at 8 pm we probably would have made it on time. But this was yet another experience we took from this trip. The long drive, the lost yet then found dark campsite and the guy in his pajamas, showing us to our cabin with a small torch. Luckily, we had the booking details printed out.

The following morning we met two bikers by the Bridge of the Gods. They shared some valuable information about the Oregon falls. They gave us directions for the Historic Columbia River Highway and recommended their favorite trails.
And at night, another unpredictable thing happened. We arrived at the address given to us by our Airbnb host, but no one was there. We knocked on the door, we phoned our host, but there was no answer.

It’s funny. I couldn’t remember this incident until I started writing down this post. It’s only because we didn’t make a big deal out of it. Things that are out of our control were bound to happen.
If you were wondering, he did show up eventually and even recommended a local lake for a good night swim.
The day after we made more new friends who pointed us to a place where wild elks are to be seen. It was magnificent.

Turning failure into success

We traveled through many wonderful places during our trip (Redwood National Park and Yosemite to name a few) and made even more friends. 
We’ve had conversations about life, spirit and religion, money, and politics.
We learned and gained insights from every single person we met. From the guy who’s going to open an art studio for homeless teenagers, to the girl who left her home state, Kansas, and moved to LA.
We couldn’t have planned to meet so many amazing people. It’s only thanks to the goal we set ourselves to go against our nature. 
When you go out of your comfort zone, you experience more than ever.

Many other things have gone wrong during our trip. But our approach was to welcome each and every unpredicted occurrence with open arms. We decided to embrace all failures. To expect and accept them. 
That way, we turned those failures into little success stories
To name a few:

  • The closure of a part of highway 1 — 
    Thanks to that we got to San Luis Obispo sooner and had more time to have a chat (and a beer!) with our lovely host and pet his cat, Flopsy (see below).
  • All our GoPro mounts broke — 
    First and foremost it was a good laugh. A couple broke on the same day for no apparent reason. We filmed less and experienced more. And when we really wanted to film we just had to be creative.
  • Not wearing sunscreen in San Francisco — 
    Well, ouch! But also, kind of funny. Helped us with making a decision of buying and wearing some on the following days.
  • The one billion annoying flies in Yosemite — 
    They might have ruined our early morning hike but thanks to those flies, we took a shortcut and met a lovely couple. The mutual interest that first got us talking: those annoying flies!
  • The 106 degrees in California — 
    Thanks for some great ice creams! Luckily, we already had sunscreen when it was that hot.
  • Hurricane/Tropical-Storm Irma that almost got our trip to New Orleans canceled — 
    It got us thinking about alternatives places to visit which might end up as our next trip!
  • The flight delay to New York — 
    Thanks for the vouchers, Delta! We have already used and enjoyed them thoroughly.
  • The terrible Airbnb in New York — 
    We got to see more of the city since we literally came there just to sleep.
Flopsy in action!

That’s the funny thing about failure. It’s really just a matter of perspective. 
If you never expect to fail — you will probably end up failing quite a bit. 
If you don’t accept failure, you won’t experiences true successes.

The remarkable thing about the unpredictable is how it introduces you to new places, ideas, and people. 
And the real question is — will you accept and expect the unexpected?

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 330,853+ people.

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