My motto for this year is “fail often.” The idea is super cliche – I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times – but I hope that by saying it here now you’ll really get it just like how I’m now getting it.
Some of my favorite iterations of this idea include:
- Thomas Edison: “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”
- Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
- Paulo Coehlo: “There is only one thing that makes a dream truly impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
- My sorority sister: “You’re thinking too much. Just start and go all in!”
Still didn’t sink in. I was like yeah, successful people do a lot of failing first, but wait, I have to cry because I just started cooking and I’m not a chef yet. Thinking about this example in particular reminds me of the early days of my cooking. I would take a plate to my mom waiting for her to say, “mmm, this is pretty good” and she wouldn’t lie to me. Sometimes she wouldn’t even smile. Instead, I got “this is ok; it could be cooked a little more” or “you didn’t quite get that right.” Talk about being butt hurt. I couldn’t fathom why cooking delicious meals didn’t just come to me.
School made me think I could read the book, follow the equation, and get the A. It didn’t prepare me for all the unknown variables in life: simple surprises like the fact a stove can interpret a medium temperature differently than a recipe book.
I didn’t start to understand until the day I decided I wanted to learn how to do a headstand. I watched a couple fly Instagram stories and decided I needed to exude balance and grace, so I got on the floor and started flipping over.
I landed on my back again. And again. And again. Finally, I asked for help and let someone hold my legs up straight. I could’ve decided it didn’t count, but I saw it as a step forward. Every day for about a week I took a few moments to try to stand on my head. It was ugly but I had fun. I didn’t expect to pick it up on the first try, but I got better. I felt good about that. About two weeks later, I managed to do a headstand with no hands or wall to support me. My back and legs weren’t straight but I was proud as hell. I did a few whoops and samurai kicks to celebrate. I’ll be back at it tomorrow – that and shooting some photos I might not like in a few weeks, and writing some words that might not be book-worthy.
Eventually, I hope to look at failure entirely differently; I want to kill the association I have between failure and fear. Until that day comes, I’m happy to reframe failure as a way to get closer to success. Failure used to disappoint me, but now I expect it just like I expect the weather to be unpredictable in Cleveland. Failure is part of the process of success.* It’s doing nothing that’ll get you nowhere.
*I came up with this line on my own before I read it in a Robert Kiyosaki quote, but it’s good to know I’m already thinking like the greats.