Today I want to celebrate failure!
A while ago I read the transcript of JK Rowling’s commencement address at Harvard in which she said,
“On this wonderful day in which we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure.
I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”
Is it just me, or is this comforting in an odd sort of way? I’m not glad JK Rowling went through incredible difficulties, but I am grateful for what she made out of these dark times. And I wonder, could she– or would she– have created Harry Potter without scraping bottom?
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
Yesterday I listened to a man talk about losing his job, and how hard it was. His self-image was crushed. He’d been angry with the guy he saw as responsible– until he realized being unemployed gave him the time and incentive he needed to go back to college and get his degree. He finished by saying he might, some day, go back and thank that guy for getting him fired.
My friend, Trina, recently posted a video on my FaceBook page. (I love you, Trina!)
|Katy Perry- Part of Me- YouTube|
I love this music video because she takes a hard thing in her life– a failed relationship– and uses the force behind it to create something strong in herself.
It’s a hard thing to do– to pick up the pieces, look at what’s real, and decide to build something beautiful with what you have left. But often, what people build after failure is stronger than what they had before, because the messed up parts were the ones that broke.
Learning to pick ourselves up and get back in the game is essential to true success. In ice skating, skiing, and learning to walk, one of the most important lessons is how to fall. I imagine that’s even more true in skydiving! Doesn’t life feel a bit like skydiving sometimes?
Years ago my daughter had a friend who was into theatre almost as much as my kids. I asked her mom if the daughter would be auditioning for an upcoming play, and was told she would not. When I asked why, since it was a production she would most likely love, I was told, “She might not get the part she wants. I try to set her up for success.”
I thought about that a lot while driving around town and standing in the shower (where I ponder life) and decided that I try to set my kids up for failure. Honestly.
I want my kids to fall early, crash young, and learn to pick themselves up when the the distance to the ground is still small.
Because learning to fall is part of learning to fly.
Sometimes, having the worst possible thing happen frees us to do what we always wanted to do in the first place. Failure strips us of pretense and lets us get down to the business of creating our true selves into our best selves.
PS. Another song that makes me think about this, besides Part of Me by Katy Perry, is Stronger by Kelly Clarkson. I’m putting together a SONGS PAGE, with sections for different types of songs, and would Love it if after reading this, you would post a comment with a song suggestion to go with this theme! TIA for your ideas! =D