Thursday, November 09, 2006


Last night I went out for a drink with my friend L. In addition to being a brilliant and successful businesswoman, L is also very competitive. We were talking about failure, and she told me about an experience she had in college doing a ropes course. She and her partner were doing really well, and were one of the few teams to make it to the most challenging high course. As is her nature, L was determined that they would make it across. They were almost at the end when they slipped and fell, and were caught in their safety harnesses. Her reaction to the failure surprised her. "It was great!" she said. "It was actually really fun. I couldn't believe that *that* was what I'd been afraid of!"

Another friend speculates that we procrastinate to avoid failure. She writes, "the reason most procrastinators procrastinate is that, oddly, they're perfectionists -- they want whatever they do to come out perfectly, so they put off starting, because if they don't start, they can't mess up or do a less-than-flawless job" -- in other words, they can't fail.

s/they/we/ -- I'm a pretty good procrastinator myself, and as much as I hate to admit it, at least some of my procrastination stems from fear of failure.

The problem with not starting equalling not having to worry about failure is that not starting also means not having a shot at success. Admittedly, I try a lot of stuff, but lately I tend to choose the stuff at which I have a pretty good shot at success. I've been thinking lately that I'd like to get better at, or at least more accepting of, failing. (I mentioned this idea to a friend who asked, "If you try to fail on purpose, and fail, aren't you succeeding?" Heh, good point.)

In thinking about this topic, I realized that I've had a few failures that really deserve to be celebrated. In the interest of baring my soul to the intarweb (and also in an effort to complete this entry before midnight), here goes nothing.

1. I was fired. I worked for a hobby/craft store (that Google can't locate, so it must not exist anymore) in Conestoga Mall. The whole boyfriend thing was new, and I talked to him on the phone a lot, and, you know, the model airplane boxes weren't all lined up at the end of my shift - definitely deserved. I don't know if my mom even knows about that one. (Hi, Mom!)

2. I was fired. No, that isn't a typo. The second time was from Kinko's, for making fake ID. I've only recently started telling people about this one, because, well, it's embarassing to be fired from a company that practically prides itself on poor customer service, and also because my Photoshop skills were seriously lacking at the time and the ID was ghetto.

3. I was kicked out of school. Oh my God, I can't believe I'm going to publish this information. I know at least 2 and maybe 3 people from work read this blog, and I'm hoping that my reputation of awesomeness is strong enough to survive this confession, so here goes. I'd had a rather difficult term at school (OK, a rather difficult 4 years) and I was working for the summer at Corel when I received a call from the registrar's office. The woman told me, without much preamble, that I'd failed 2 courses in the semester I'd just completed, which put me over the Math faculty's sucking threshold of only allowing 4 failures. She said the faculty had asked that I "not return" in the Fall. I was mortified. (The good news was that I had earned enough credits to get a degree anyway, just not an honours degree and I didn't quite finish my minor.)

It's liberating and even a little bit fun to recount these tales -- is that all I was afraid of? We all fail in big ways and small ways, and a lot of life is about shots on goal and taking chances and making spaghetti -- throw it against the wall to see if it sticks. And it helps to be proud of the failures along with the successes: Your failure might be the permission someone needs to try something at which he or she will be a roaring success.

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