If you look up the word ‘failure’ in the dictionary (or rather, search for it online at Merriam-Webster.com), you’ll find that the word is a noun meaning either ‘a falling short’ or ‘one that has failed’. To me this means that when you have a failure of the first type you become a failure of the second type. I’ve made a nice equation to illustrate this point :
Me + mistake = I am a FAILURE.
Me + yelling at the kids to get their shoes on instead of patiently chanting a mantra = FAILURE (someone call Child Protective Services and take away this unfit mother)
In my view, mistakes are not actions that can be brushed off – they are indicators of my inner state of being. They tell me who I am. If I fail, I am a failure.
By my rules, since one mistake equals failure, I rarely (if ever) feel like I’ve succeeded.
Then there’s the Mythbusters.
For those of you who may not know, Mythbusters is a show on the Discovery Channel where a bunch of special-effects/science/robotic experts crash cars, blow stuff up, and build elaborate cheese canons in the name of proving or disproving popular legends. (Surprise! I don’t only watch 30 Rock on television. No, sometimes I watch it on Netflix.)
The Mythbusters live by the phrase ‘Failure is always an option’. Although they often conduct experiments with live explosives, they seem totally okay with the process of messing up, making mistakes, recalculating and then trying again. With all of basic cable looking on, they gleefully fail.
It seems that the Mythbuster equation is:
Mythbuster + mistake = a failure (let’s try that again)
Of course a Mythbuster mistake could also mean they put a cannonball through someone’s home, but some mistakes are bigger than others, right? The point is, they have experienced failure, but they certainly don’t seem to feel like failures. They experiment, they fail, they adjust, they try again.
I like their equation better than mine. It leaves room for success at the end of the process (and a little property damage). It leaves room for still feeling good at the end of the day, even a day filled with trial-and-error. I’m going to adopt a new phrase:
Failure is always an option; it’s not always catastrophic.
It will be a great relief to be able to call myself successful at something – even if I’m only succeeding at giving myself a new view of failure.
Boy, the universe is such a kidder. After posting this ode to failure, I was immediately presented with several personal failures to view as non-catastrophic. I went to my daughter’s 2nd grade class to read to the students, whereupon I learned I was three hours late, and in fact, had forgotten the storybooks I was to have read.
I left the school and went on an errand spree. I took my time, as my son was behaving incredibly well and my husband was working from home and would be there to collect Hailey off the school bus at 2:45.
As I was pushing my loaded grocery cart through the dairy aisle at 2:50, my cell rang. An unfamiliar, but local number, was calling me. I knew right away. My husband hadn’t returned from lunch in time, and Hailey had been left knocking on the locked front door of the house. Both Jon and I had assumed (oh, ha ha) that the other would be back in time for Hailey. Well, you know what happens when one assumes…we made an a** out of me, since I’m the one who the bus driver called.
(Full disclosure – this is about the third time this year that I’ve missed getting Hailey off the bus, so I’ve pretty much done the a**-making all by myself.)
Hailey was rescued just in time by Jon pulling into the driveway before I even got off the phone with the driver.
On to dinner! I decided to make a new recipe from Pinterest (the Twitter-verse of recipes, Polyvore and thinspiration crap). The ‘life-changing’ mac and cheese recipe turned into the world’s cheesiest wallpaper paste – good news for the cockroaches that will be feasting on the remains of our society, post apocalypse.
Soooooo, be careful what you dare the universe for. I’m ready to accept failure – but not all at once.