I’ve been pondering the concept of failure over the past month and come to find out, I do not know much about it. My investigation in to what failure means to my friends is always met with a long stare as their minds put together the words to describe what exactly it could be.
On one hand , my close friend, considered a personal failure to be their inability to see their creative endeavor to fruition. While my partner considered their inability to successfully train for (without getting injured) and completing a marathon in college, a failure. Their failures have a linear quality to them. Idea > Preparation > Action > Designed Outcome.
While I, on the other hand, have had my biggest failures to be interpersonal in nature. Understandably so, as trial and error with friendships inevitably does. However, this is not so much the case as I’ve grown more comfortable with being picky about who I build a relationship with over the years. My privilege to some degree but really, my money, allows me great latitude in choosing who I spend time with and where. So for me, while I have experienced failure in a few relationships, I cannot count it as a true failure. I’m grateful for the opportunity and ability to be discerning.
My latest thoughts on failure though, are not interpersonal. They are solely rooted in selecting an objective and being unable to accomplish that objective (like normal people). As a straight white woman, my imagination is so limited that I can only think of failure in terms of not being able to accomplish some huge physical task.
My life is so comfortable after all. I’m so soft after sleeping indoors 360 days a year. My skin is so smooth, my finger and toe nails are so clean. I even keep an extra tooth brush under my sink, just so I do not ever have the inconvenience of brushing my teeth with a less than immaculate brush. I’m rarely hungry, tried, hot or cold. My cocktail and brunch parties are a thing of legend.
To many, I’m living their dream but to me, I wonder, as a savage, nearly hairless and plump ape, am I worthy of living and breathing on this unique world?
Do I have grit?
In the mid- 17th century, the old French word ‘faillir’, meaning nonoccurence, was recast to ‘failure’. From this analysis, we have arrived at the most trite notion of all inspirational garbage ever published in the history of Barnes and Noble. That failure, to some degree, can be interpreted as simply not taking on the challenge. As such, I cannot with a reasonable mind say that failure is ‘not trying’.
It must be more complicated than that. There has to be something that sets failure apart from the typical human experience. A personal reverence must be associated with the failure. So much so that you earmark it and reference it time and again when confronted with adversity or a similar challenge.
Ultimately, this maybe why so many ‘Westerners’ find themselves taking on the potential for failure outdoors or in sport. We have the Enlightenment and Transcendentalism to thank for our reverence of Nature. And, a few million years of evolution for our drive to exert ourselves for fun.
With my cozy post recession life, I desire to dip into the raw human experience and sip the bitter waters of defeat.
Sure. I’ve not succeeded…
Without a doubt, I’ve experienced…set backs. Like my failed attempt at making gravy; which as a Southerner from a long line of great Southern cooks, is actually a sin. I’ve never consider this or other things to be a true failure. My privilege at an all time high here, because for me, the narrative is not complete. I have plenty of time to make gravy even if it would be lovely to have at brunch.
I feel this way about climbing as well. Those routes are not going any where.
My partner is a good example of this as he has failed but he never considers it a true failure until he decides that another attempt is not in the cards. For him, you only have to succeed once and the failures are inconsequential.
What is it like?
I’m not sure what failure will look like for me so I’m determined to know it first hand. From my analysis, the potential for failure will be at its highest if:
- The objective is worthwhile
- The objective can only be obtainable within a time-frame
- Opportunities for not meeting the objective are easily accessible (ie – an easy way out)
I have a few ideas in mind for how exactly I can set myself up for failure. None of them involve gravy and thankfully, none of them involve Murph.
I know, as a former crossfitter, that I’m more drawn to the emotional, cerebral aspect of failure rather than the physical beat down. It is a fine line because the physical can be a gateway to the mind. We’re often so refined, so put together until we are tired, hungry, or scared.
While the idea of doing Murph again did appeal to me, I know that Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy’s end of life was far harder than any WOD. For me, grinding out a Hero WOD in a gym or on a flat track is too far removed from my nature.
My heart, my talent, is being comfortable in the wilderness and the challenge has always been to move efficiently in that space.