Defining Failure

Defining Failure

Stolen from "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon
Stolen from “Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon

This post is in response to the NY Times Learning Network article on Sowing Failure, Reaping Success.

In the article, Sowing Failure, Reaping Success, the reporters raise several important questions. I was interested in the following questions:

What is “failure”? What is “success”? Who defines each?

Seeing my friend Neal on Shark Tank set off a series of questions. How am I spending my life? Am I doing the things I want to? What does success look like to me and to others? There is nothing like seeing the “success” of others to make you question your own.

I let these questions stew for a bit  We are constrained by own image. We have this idea of who we are and who we want people to think we are. We play roles that we create for ourselves and roles defined by others. This image can be costly to maintain. Whenever there is something that threatens our image, worries and aggressions creep into our brain. Our ideas of failure and success impact this image. We worry that a failure will chip away at that image.

When looking at a problem, I can imagine all the ways it can go wrong. Feeling like I need to address each of these issues before I begin. These stumbling blocks For me the real failures in life are the thoughts that prevent me from starting. I hate letting the worries of whether or not something will be successful.

I am reminded of couplets from Goethe:

Then indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting over lost days.
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

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