Does failure have value?

I study ways of becoming successful. Whether it’s for success within a treatment program or success on a large project, there are literally hundreds of programs that provide different tools and techniques for becoming successful. However, even though all of these tools exist, failure remains a reality, which for me, begs the question: Does failure have value?

To answer that question, I looked at one of my own recent failures to see if there was anything useful. About two (2) months ago, I started a writing program included in a book called, “90 Days to Your Novel” and for six (6) of those ninety (90) days, I was on point. But, when the seventh day arrived, I froze. Though I did try to stick to the program, I soon found myself following further and further behind until I realized that I failed. At this point, I should be almost two-thirds of the way towards a first draft of a novel, but, I’m not.

Once I had to write, I couldn’t. When I sat down and started scribbling, nothing hit the page. It was like the time one cold February morning when I walked downstairs to make coffee and the faucet yielded no water. The previous night set a cold temperature record and my pipes froze. Similarly, the fact that I had to write presented a point that ideas that could become words froze my ability and my program was over. I tried, but the more I tried the more frustrated and stressed out I became and rather than try and find purpose, I let time pass and gave up.

I think that may be a big reason why people fail: Once stress and negative energy and emotion enter a program, regardless of the program’s quality, the chances of success diminish. For example, when someone tries to lose weight, if he or she isn’t losing the amount that they think they should be losing, they become angry and stop trying to lose weight. Also, when someone enters recovery, things may not progress at the rate they would like and, again, they give up. Really, it comes down to the Fuck-it Bucket: People get so discouraged that they literally get to a point where all they can say is, “Fuck it, I give up.”

I know I did. Days passed by and I couldn’t complete the exercises for Day Seven. I was frozen and I became so angry that I said, “The Hell with a new novel.” But, in my failure, I also have realized that writing for me isn’t about finishing something, it’s simply about the writing. Maybe I became too attached to the outcome of completing the novel, or maybe I was judging the quality of the work I was doing too harshly. Either way, I failed. But, it was a great reminder of the deadliness of outcome attachment and judgment. Neither are conducive to health and neither are components of success.

So, for me, there is value in my failure because I learned that writing is its own reward. Perhaps if people stepped back and reflected on their own perceived failures, they too can find material from which they can learn. I’m not sure, but I am willing to bet that failure can be a great teacher.

  1. I think there’s great value in “failure”, too – I put the word in quotation marks because I want to broaden the definition to include things which aren’t, strictly speaking, “failures” but also have educative value: serious illness; loss; financial setbacks. I wouldn’t wish these on anyone, but having lived through all three, I know I’ve managed to learn something valuable each time.

    Yes, yes, that sounds like the worst of quick-fix pop-psychology: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!!!” …which isn’t necessarily true. Things which may not kill us can still weaken us or damage us. However, sometimes we can learn from these things.

    Speaking of “failure”: I have an important meeting today. I am not working at the present, due to continuing severe depression and anxiety, but received a lump sum of money which I want to put into a new business venture. I have drawn up a draft business plan and am meeting with a consultant today to assess the viability of my concept. My husband, naturally far more cautious than I am, is dead set against the idea. Am I stressed? Yes. “Should” I be? No! Because either a disinterested third party will say the idea has legs (yay!) or will say it doesn’t, in which case, much better to find out now than later. I’ll still feel like a failure though…

    So, yes, I may be thinking about failure a lot today!

    Thanks for the thought-inspiring post, my friend.

    1. Congratulations on having the guts to pursue a business! I think feasibility analysis is critical and doesn’t really indicate success or failure. I think feasibility study just allows for data about the potential of an idea…

      I think the guts to even get to that point is success….

  2. I think there’s great value in “failure”, too – I put the word in quotation marks because I want to broaden the definition to include things which aren’t, strictly speaking, “failures” but also have educative value: serious illness; loss; financial setbacks. I wouldn’t wish these on anyone, but having lived through all three, I know I’ve managed to learn something valuable each time.

    Yes, yes, that sounds like the worst of quick-fix pop-psychology: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!!!” …which isn’t necessarily true. Things which may not kill us can still weaken us or damage us. However, sometimes we can learn from these things.

    Speaking of “failure”: I have an important meeting today. I am not working at the present, due to continuing severe depression and anxiety, but received a lump sum of money which I want to put into a new business venture. I have drawn up a draft business plan and am meeting with a consultant today to assess the viability of my concept. My husband, naturally far more cautious than I am, is dead set against the idea. Am I stressed? Yes. “Should” I be? No! Because either a disinterested third party will say the idea has legs (yay!) or will say it doesn’t, in which case, much better to find out now than later. I’ll still feel like a failure though…

    So, yes, I may be thinking about failure a lot today!

    Thanks for the thought-inspiring post, my friend.

    1. Congratulations on having the guts to pursue a business! I think feasibility analysis is critical and doesn’t really indicate success or failure. I think feasibility study just allows for data about the potential of an idea…

      I think the guts to even get to that point is success….

      1. Juan, it was a totally AWESOME meeting!!! I am very excited. The business mentor suggested I might broaden my vision and pursue a not-for-profit model, which I hadn’t even considered, but which really fits with my personal values. I still have a lot of work to do, and I still haven’t reached the point where I know whether I’m going to go ahead or not, but it was just so exciting to talk about my ideas and the research I’ve already done with an expert, and to hear that they weren’t complete BS but might be open to even more possibilities than I’d originally thought. Yay!

  3. Hmm…this post of yours freaking reminds me of a certain song written by Jin/Shizen no Teki-P (one of my favorite composers): Inner Arts. Thanks very much for this inspirational post, Mr. Blea!

  4. Hmm…this post of yours freaking reminds me of a certain song written by Jin/Shizen no Teki-P (one of my favorite composers): Inner Arts. Thanks very much for this inspirational post, Mr. Blea!