The Best Kept Secret Of Colossal Failures

StartOver
If I can say one thing without hesitation it’s that I’ve failed spectacularly.

I mean fireworks, Olypmic parade, commencement speech worthy failure.

The kind of failure you look at in awe. You marvel at its ruthlessness and you quiver before its exquisite power while pulling your children close (probably for your own protection rather than the children’s).

Yes, I’ve seen it.

It’s disorienting.

It’s devastating.

It’s humiliating.

It’s proof.

It’s pure unequivocal proof that you’ve done something significant.

It’s proof that you tried to do something that was important to you. The fact that you failed is just a small, albeit painful, detail in the grand scheme of things.

The grand scheme being that you’ve made it to the point where what you’re doing matters. It matters to you, and it matters to the world (even if the world hasn’t noticed yet).

You’ve finally made yourself vulnerable enough to create something you believe in. The failure wouldn’t hurt so much if it wasn’t.

It’s proof that you worked through, and with, your fear to produce something epic. Sure, it may have been epically horrible, but it was epic nonetheless.

Most importantly, it’s proof that the worst can happen and you can handle it. You can live through it and you can carry on.

It doesn’t matter what you wanted or what your goal was. If you’ve ever felt worthy of an Academy Award for Greatest Failure, then you’ve reached a certain level of seriousness. It’s a level that people make detailed plans to arrive at, but never take any real action towards those plans.

These people have the benefit of avoiding the disgrace you’ll have to face for the rest of your life whenever you think about that failure.

They are protected from the winds that try to knock you down every single day.

They can sit on the sidelines and pity you.

They can criticize you.

But they can never join you.

They can never share the heartache and exultation that comes with being epic. They can find solace only with the mediocre.

Maybe that’s enough for them.

But for you – for you, you aim higher. You reach farther. You fall harder. You get up faster.

And when you’re finally within shouting distance of your goal, you’ll look back at them and tell them they really ought to see how beautiful it is.

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Chris Soncrant May 6, 2013, 1:48 pm

    Oh failure! What greatness has come into this world that hasn’t experienced you? To fear you is to fear learning! To fear you is to fear growth! To fear you is to fear LIFE! Failure is everywhere because evolution is everywhere. Would we even be here if some millions of species didn’t fail before us? Life IS failure! Embrace it! Love it! And since we are all going to fail (that’s the foundation of life after all) we might as well fail as BIG as we possibly can! Liz Seda, Super Genius! THANK YOU universe for this spectacular person!

    Reply
    • Justin Harmon May 6, 2013, 2:21 pm

      Agreed. Well said you!

      Reply
    • Liz May 6, 2013, 4:00 pm

      Haha well I wouldn’t go as far as say I’m Liz Seda, Super Genius…..BUT….I’m not going to split hairs :).

      It’s true. To fear failure is to fear living. And I think at some level well all fear living. I think we fear that living too much will bring us closer to death somehow…

      Reply
  • Renan L Vicentini May 6, 2013, 1:50 pm

    Liz,

    This, again, hits home. Thank you so much. I wonder what your experiences have been with regard to continue to work towards your goals in the present, while (possibly) ‘paying the cost’ of past mistakes ? How have you (if ever) dealt with keeping your eyes in the here and now, while dealing with past (and sometimes big) mistakes ? What do you do so as not to identify yourself with your past mistakes ? It has been really hard to me to do that. Although I believe I learned a lot from the past mistakes and failures, there are some days that it is really hard for me not to ‘tarnish’ myself because of them.

    Would greatly appreciate if you could give me some advice as to how you did and do. Thank you so much for your being who you are.

    Best
    Renan

    Reply
    • Liz May 6, 2013, 6:14 pm

      You know Renan, I’m going to talk about this either on Thursday or on Monday, because it’s a huge source of frustration for a lot of people.

      I’ve made huge mistakes. The biggest one (in my eyes) was the damage I did to my health when I was in college. The all nighters and taking stimulants to stay up. Throwing up to stay skinny and starving my body to the point that I sometimes couldn’t for sentences.

      I took some serious damage, and to this day my mental faculties aren’t what they were. I used to think faster, write better, make connections more quickly. Now it’s sometimes a struggle to focus. Although I’m no less intelligent, it comes more slowly now.

      I used to hate myself over it. If there’s one thing I value it’s my brain. It’s my ability to think, communicate, create, be creative and productive. To think that I’d damaged that was unbearable for me. It took me a long time to accept it and deal with what I did.

      The best thing is to understand that even when we make the wrong decisions, they always feel right to us at the time (even when we know they’re wrong). We’re doing what we think is best. I knew I shouldn’t be staying up all night, but studying was more important than sleeping at that moment. I knew I shouldn’t be taking so much stimulants, but I felt invincible in college and it helped with the all nighters. I knew it was wrong to purge, but I did it anyway because I was not comfortable with just being me.

      I made all the only decisions I could make at that time with the resources, values, knowledge, and experience I had. I did the best I could with what I had. I never set off to sabotage myself with full intention of the consequences. I never said ‘I’m going to stay up all night, starve myself, and take stimulants so that I can damage my brain. That’ll teach it who’s boss.’

      And I’m sure you didn’t either.

      I’ll elaborate more next week :).

      Reply
  • Mark May 6, 2013, 2:24 pm

    Hi Liz,
    Yesterday my 9 year old son asked what is the worse grade a student could get. I said it would be an “F”. Then I thought about it a bit more and said that there is actually something worse than getting an F. I said when a person gets an F it means they need try harder or get help. Sometimes it is both. But, at least they finished the class.
    I said there is value in finishing what you start. I said the word for that is perseverance. I explained that the person who quits has not done as well as the person who earned an F. The person who quits may not really understand the value of the F.
    At this he looked puzzled. He asked how could not finishing be worse than an F since the person who quit did not get a grade. I said for two reasons; he might not know what he is capable of, and he could develop a habit of quitting things. I said this person might be afraid of failure.
    Failure is not something to be feared. Successful people understand failing and use it to learn valuable things about themselves.
    I learned this late in life. Now fifty years old I am celebrating the 2nd half of my journey by fully developing and marketing one of my products. The best way to teach my son is by example. I plan to learn and succeed. It is better for my son to see me try and at worse fail than to see his father abandon his own ambition

    Great article, Liz. Keep on keepin’ on with the articles. You are truly a pilgrim on a journey revealing mysteries and truths. It is my honor to know you and see you become this friend to mankind.

    Mark

    Reply
    • Liz May 6, 2013, 4:41 pm

      Hey Mark! Thank you for that. That’s such a nice thing to say. I do appreciate it.

      And it’s great to see a parent reasoning with a child rather than telling them that F’s are the worst so that they won’t think F’s are acceptable. I’m sad to see so many children disciplined with the short term in mind. And with the ‘do as I say and not as I do’ mentality. How confusing is that? To see contradiction and try to make sense of it but you can’t because it doesn’t make sense. I think it’s the start of the non-thinking…

      Reply
    • Chris Soncrant May 6, 2013, 6:24 pm

      Bravo and well said Mark! I thought about education and how failure can be easily seen as a bad thing, and is in fact frowned upon by many students and professors. Considering how important we consider schooling to be and how huge of a role it plays in many of our lives it is no wonder many come out of school afraid of failure. However what you said was perfect! Even an ‘F’ has value if it’s the result of true heart-filled effort. Quitting is definitely way worse than an ‘F.’ Your kid’s a lucky one!

      Reply
  • Brian May 6, 2013, 8:47 pm

    I’m thinking of that old bit of advice on how to consider failure “as a verb and not a noun.” Guess it could be considered almost played out at this point, but still feels like a fairly powerful perspective. It seems that’s what a lot of the most empowered folks learn to do almost unconsciously–define their actions in terms of success or failure and see the end result from the standpoint of achieving or not achieving a desired outcome. That way they’re able to take on the bigger risks and try again. At that point maybe “risks” become more like “choices” (albeit with some tension attached)? So of course I don’t know exactly how “they” think, but I do know too many of us avoid embracing failure because we’re unable to see it as a verb and instead use it to label ourselves and knock down our sense of self-worth in the process.

    You’ve also made it clear here and other times–there’s an energy balance between risk and success/failure. At least this would seem to apply to creating something that’s really important to its creator. Play it on the safe side, risk failing a little, and the possible positive outcome, relative to what’s possible for you, is that you’ll succeed…a little. But if any of us dare to succeed greatly, we can only hope to do so at the risk of failing greatly.

    And as for this post?… Another colossal SUCCESS. A score of 10 from the North Eastern region judge. (Yes, I just appointed myself. Hope nobody is bothered by
    that). Now on to the Freestyle competition… 🙂

    Reply
    • Liz May 8, 2013, 10:05 pm

      Haha the Freestyle competition! Well, I take your freestyle competition and raise you a beatbox competition. Suck it!

      I never actually heard about thinking of failure as a verb and not a noun. I’ve heard about ‘life is a verb’ but not about failure. Thanks for that Brian!

      I love this —> “too many of us avoid embracing failure because we’re unable to see it as a verb and instead use it to label ourselves and knock down our sense of self-worth in the process.’

      Reply
      • Brian May 9, 2013, 9:21 am

        I remember now. The original expression I heard was, “‘Failure’ is something you do, not something you are.” Somewhere I heard the alternate version and latched onto that, probably because I knew I’d have a hard time following advice that felt like is was phrased for 6 year olds. 🙂

        Reply
  • cj May 6, 2013, 9:47 pm

    I’ll take their pity. I’ll take their criticism. And I’ll take all the credit and all the adventure too. Great post, Liz!!!

    Reply
    • Liz May 8, 2013, 10:07 pm

      Thanks CJ!

      Reply
  • Trevor May 7, 2013, 6:49 am

    Awe. Some.

    One thing’s for sure. This post was an epic success! I love it!

    Next to death and public speaking, failure has to be one of the biggest fears of most people. For some reason, folks believe that if they try and fail, then it means that they are a failure. When really, that’s the furthest thing from the truth.

    True failure is not even trying at all. Just sitting on your ass watching life pass you by. Never attempting anything great, or even anything just beyond mediocre. True failure comes from never even giving yourself the chance.

    But for those who are striving for something greater, it’s important to remember that failure is just a lesson in disguise. Usually the one we most need to learn.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Liz May 8, 2013, 10:07 pm

      And I love you Trevor! I have a huge drawn out theory about this whole concept, but I won’t bore you. I’ll just say that you’re right in too many ways to count.

      Reply
      • Trevor May 9, 2013, 7:05 pm

        Please Liz, by all means bore me.

        Or . . .

        Save it for a post and wow me.

        Reply
  • Ashton May 8, 2013, 8:16 am

    I think it was Seth Godin that coined the phrase to “Fail Forward.”
    He’s always on about trying to fail as quickly as you can, because that’s the quickest way to learn what doesn’t work.

    Reply

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