I’m currently reading a school of life book ‘how to deal with adversity’ sitting on the mega bus after a long weekend with my grandad. My grandad and I spent the weekend, as we do, putting the world to rights, reflecting on life past, present and future. The combination of the two and current personal events have prompted me to explore the f word… ‘failure’
So, what does the word mean. The Oxford dictionary definition is:
1. Lack of success.
2. The neglect or omission of expected or required action.
3. The action or state of not functioning.
I’ve been thinking about how it mean’s different things to different people. Maybe it’s not getting the job, house, relationship we wanted, maybe its losing it all. Maybe it’s not getting somewhere on time, maybe it’s not pulling through on a deadline, maybe it’s saying the wrong thing, maybe it’s not asking for help, maybe it’s having to say goodbye to something, maybe it’s not giving something care and attention it needed.
However big or small it is to someone, ultimately failure is attached to set of ideas or intentions we had for something, when we took a risk to make it happen and it didn’t end up working out the way we might have envisioned.
When relating it to a DJ set, it may mean blundering a mix, I recently listened to an RA podcast of the Hour (see link at the bottom) where various DJ’s discussed their worst gig’s. They described starting a gig and pulling out the wrong USB, music cutting out, power cutting out, feeling unwell and not being able to hear anything. They describe moments where they felt they had failed and the feeling that could have prevented them from carrying on, but they had to pull through, get back on it and carry on. I found something reassuring about that. Sticking your middle figure up to adversity and saying to yourself ‘all right that didn’t go as planned, you got this, try again’.
I realised that I hold a lot of fear around failure. This prevents me from stepping out into the world, has made me feel like isolating myself, like I don’t want to take the leap, do the things that I might find scary, like I don’t believe in myself, prevented me from saying the things I feel and challenge others, staying in the soft warm crutched of situations, people, things that distracted me from my fears, or listening to myself or being true to me.
Failure (and fear of failure) is universal, everyone suffers it but we often don’t talk about it. Society also teaches us to relish in others failure. Pretty much most reality TV shows are built on the backs of others failure and ratings soaring the more we take part in the fast food culture, heckling people to fail so it doesn’t make our own feelings of failure matter so much. Society also tells us that there are certain millstones we need to hit, certain things we must do, otherwise we have failed. The modern world is so resourceful at throwing our failure at us daily, people presenting their perfect lives on social media, there achievements, constantly telling you to be better, do more, fill the void and escape the terrible feeling of failing and not being like everyone else.
For my day job, I work as a support worker. For years, I have support people in challenging circumstance and numerous times watched people experience the feelings of failure or tell themselves they have failed. A couple of weeks ago someone asked me a question ‘Why do you do what you do?’. I realised it’s for the moments and people who inspire me the most. The ones who face adversity, feel shame, suffering, everything has told them to give up but they haven’t. They’ve owned their failure, reflected on it and then turned it into a success. They kept fighting, loving, trusting, guiding and listening to themselves against the odds. They haven’t done what everyone else has told them to do or what society has told them to do. They are carving their own formula and pulling on their own innate resilience, listening to those they know have their best interests at heart but ultimately making positive decisions, being honest and true to who they are.
There are external factors in our lives that are out of our control, we cannot control people, situations, timing, life. We can control ourselves, our fears and our choices. If we never fail, we have never tried anything new. We have stayed stuck in situations that no longer make us happy, we have never pursued a passion, we have never felt accomplishment or persistence. we have never found out who we really are and what’s out there in the world for us. If we haven’t lived our lives listening to what we want and need but have only listened to our fears, whatever happens, we have failed.
I’ll finish with a quote from Winston Churchill that spoke to me, at a time, when I felt I had failed.
‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts’
The EX.373 The Hour: Worst DJ sets, Steffi – https://www.residentadvisor.net/podcast-episode.aspx?exchange=373
Sisu is a special strength and persistent determination and resolve to continue and overcome in the moment of adversity…an almost magical quality, a combination of stamina, perseverance, courage, and determination held in reserve for hard times.