Have you ever noticed that when you are down it can be easier to talk to someone who has tried really hard at something and failed than it is to talk to someone who has succeeded easily?
When I’m rock climbing and I see people who clearly know what they are doing I feel intimidated and want to hide because I have no idea what I’m doing and I feel like an idiot next to them. When I see people trying and trying and falling off the same wall over and over I smile and cheer for them and they do the same for me. In fact, when I am that person—spending an entire hour trying to get up the same wall and never actually making it—I have found that people are more willing to talk to me. Strangers cheer for me, more experienced climbers give me advice, and when I fall they sympathize and encourage me to get back up.
I think it has to do with the fact that failure is something that is almost universally feared. It’s terrifying to think you can try something and fail, but when you see someone else try and fail and then smile because at least they tried--- it changes your perspective. Failure didn’t kill that person. It didn’t destroy their sense of self. It didn’t make them crawl into a hole and give up on the world. Failure only made them human. It made them relatable and it took away the fear of being the only one who can’t do it. Seeing someone else fail (but not break) takes the edge off the whole idea of failure… Think about it…
Why are we afraid of failing? What do we think will happen?
We will be rejected? Alone? Worthless?
But if you see someone else fail then you know that you can also fail and not be alone. If you admire that person for trying even if they didn’t make it you realize that failure doesn’t equate to rejection. If the person pops back up smiling and laughing because at least they tried (and sometimes falling off walls can be fun) then you start to realize that failure doesn’t have to mean worthlessness. Is that person any less of a person because they messed up? No. So if you mess up then you won’t be any less either.
In Heyoka medicine (again to my best understanding) the shaman has to suffer in order to heal. Why? Because through suffering the clown learns that they can overcome suffering and they figure out the strategies to overcome it. This way they can share these strategies with others. I have become excellent at failing.
You know what that means?
It means that if I see someone else fall down and stay down I can go over to them and say, Hey. It’s okay. I know it hurts, but here is how you get back on your feet. You can do this, and I’ll be right here to help you out.
So maybe there is a point to all of this…
I’ve always wanted to help people.
Maybe my failure is a way to remind those around me that yes, it is possible to put your heart into something and not succeed; but that’s okay. When that happens then you laugh and cry and remember that you are not alone.
So, is there a purpose in failure? Sure there is. There can be a purpose in anything if you take the time to find it. This is the purpose I choose to attribute to my experience with failure: I’ve failed so many times to help someone else realize that its okay to try and fail.
Also… failure often makes the best stories. 😊