Why I Expect Failure, And Celebrate Success
Hint: it’s to keep my sanity.
Honestly, I fail significantly more than I succeed.
I fail at most things in my life, actually. Keeping a balance. Staying physically fit. Making a decent living. Being a good son. Communicating with the people close to me. Managing my finances.
Even at the one thing that I should be good at, which is writing, I fail much more than I succeed.
In fact, my success rate for articles is still one out of five. Yes, you heard me right. Out of five articles I write, four get hardly any readers at all.
After more than four years of building my writing career.
In the past, whenever I published an article that would get hardly any readers at all, I would obsess about it to the point that I couldn’t really sleep at night.
You can imagine how bad that is when your rate of failure is so high. Plus, at that time my failure rate was much higher.
During that period of my life, I may have gotten a calm, peaceful sleep once every ten nights or so.
Failure is the normal state of life
And yet, we tend to think that when we fail at something once, we are always going to be a failure at it.
That is complete insanity.
Regardless of what we start doing, we suck at it in the beginning. After years of practice, we might become okay at it. After decades, we may become good enough to be among the top of our fields.
And even then, a lot of our projects are simply not gonna hit the spot. With everything we do, there is an element of chaos and unpredictability to it.
Whenever we fail, we have just ‘failed’ one attempt at something.
There will always be other people who have already tried to do something similar hundreds of times, and still fail.
In other words, failure has to be a part of the process of doing anything. Perhaps even the most prevalent part.
Failure only means that you’re still in the game.
You just failed? Great! Now you can get out there and fail again. And again. And again.
Actually, there is something funny about me. Almost every time I finish writing an article, I think to myself:
“Oh, that must’ve been the best article I’ve ever written!”
Then, nobody cares about it.
At first, the urge always comes up to think that I am a failure. That I have lost my ability to write decent articles. That I will never become really good at what I am doing.
After a few minutes, I remind myself that this is the normal state of affairs. And then, I realize that at least this means that I still haven’t given up.
I am still trying my best. I am still pushing hard every single day.
So, I’m still in the game.
I still have a shot at becoming one of the best writers in my field.
That changes my perspective completely. I will then have a look at the article and see if there is any particular element I can draw from it that tells me something about why it might have failed.
Sometimes, I get some new insights into what works and what doesn’t work.
Sometimes, I learn nothing from the process at that point in time.
Sometimes, a few weeks later I put the pieces together in my mind and it leads to real, large-scale progress in my work.
Regardless of what the outcome is of that particular article, in the end, it was just one failed step in the grand scheme towards my long-term goals
You might think to yourself that what I am saying is all good and everything, but that I am only talking about the failure of individual articles. An article is only the work of a few hours. But my failure has been going on for years now!
That’s a valid point.
But actually, our situations are not that different.
Overall, I’ve also not been a success with my writing. Until today, I still have a comparatively small audience.
Plus, I am still not really capable of making a living from my writing alone. After four years of trying hard every single day.
In a sense, I can happily announce that I have been a long-term failure.
Short-term failure and long-term failure are actually one and the same thing. One failed step in a long process towards success.
It’s just that long-term failure is a much longer and bigger step on the journey, than something that happens within a day or so.
From my perspective, it makes much more sense to categorize these two in this way:
- Failed articles, failed marketing campaigns, failed product launches, are single events of failure at one specific thing
- Failed years to make a decent living, or failed years of building a successful start-up, are life periods of failure at one specific thing
They may differ in length, but they both still make up only a small fraction of our whole career.
Even if we fail quite badly at a specific period of our lives (say 3–5 years or even 5–10 years) in terms of achieving the outcomes we are looking for, then there is still the majority of our career left to achieve something meaningful.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try our best now, or that we shouldn’t believe that we can be successful very soon.
It just means that we should currently expect failure as the normal state of affairs. That we should see failure for what it is — a temporary, yet inevitable part of our lives.
Some final words:
Honestly, it’s really hard to deal with failure. It’s one of these things that every single person in the world is struggling with, even those at the very top of their game.
But that’s the whole point.
Failure is an inevitable part of life. We are always going to fail at the majority of the things that we are trying to do.
If, at the end of your life, you can honestly say that you can do one or two things so well that you are at the very top of your field, then you won big time.
Until then, you can only keep pushing forward… and celebrate your successes to the fullest.
Remember, you are going to have much less moments of real success than you think. So do yourself a favor and cherish those few that you get throughout your lifetime.
“If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake” — Frank Wilczek, Nobel Price winner in physics
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