What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?
The quote above is my favourite and it’s from Robert Schuller.
I’ve been thinking about two unrelated things today. Relating them. Yup, that’s how my mind works.
My daughter went for her G license today (the final one) and, unfortunately, didn’t get it. She was told she knew how to drive well, and did everything right, but didn’t check her blind spots enough. So, she didn’t pass and will now likely have to wait until next summer to get it.
And my first reaction was, well that friggin’ sucks.
But the more I thought about it, it sort of became less sucky than I originally thought. Before I explain, let me talk a touch about that second unrelated thing.
I’ve been trying for years to get published. I’ve been writing for a lot of years. Hell, I’ve been teaching for a lot of years. And trust me, for every one of the twelve-ish years I’ve taught Creative Writing, there’s always a surreal couple of minutes near the beginning of the first class where I introduce myself and I have to admit that I’m not a published author. I mean, who the heck has the stones to tell other people how to write when he’s not even been able to get something worthwhile published himself?
Apparently me. Anyway…
If I’ve learned anything in this life, it’s that you learn more from your mistakes than anything else. And God knows, I’ve made a million mistakes over the years. I have no idea why the company I work for still employs me with all the stupid things I’ve done, aside from the fact that they encourage you to push yourself. And if you do that, you will fail at times.
Same with the writing thing. I’ve written a lot of stuff now, not all of it good. Okay, let’s be honest, a vast majority of it that isn’t good. And it’s stuff that I’ve pushed out to editors and publishers thinking that it was good. Over the years, I’ve learned differently. Over the years, I’ve failed enough to start understanding a little more about what it takes to succeed.
I wouldn’t have learned that if I’d succeeded on my first go. I’m sure I still would have learned what I needed. Heck, might have even learned it sooner in some cases. But when I think about what I’ve experienced in the last week or so, having my first published work now out there and the awesome response to it…
Well, it just makes it that much higher, this success after all that failure. But I also know that failure still lurks just around the corner, waiting to kick my ass again.
So, this is why I don’t think it’s all that horrible that my daughter didn’t get her license today. It likely hasn’t taught her anything quite yet, but down the line she’ll start to realize that not everything comes easy. That sometimes you work your brains out and still don’t get the reward. That sometimes, you’re best at the time isn’t good enough. That there’s times when others make the decision and no amount of talent or inspiration can change their point of view.
And yeah, there’s all those cliched expressions…If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…Winners never quit, quitters never win…and so on and so on.
But the damn thing is, they really are true. Whether it’s a driver’s license exam or publishing a book or interviewing for a job or learning to cook or anything else you can think of that takes a little effort (and really, what doesn’t take some effort?), you have to keep trying, but you have to learn from the mistakes you made along the way. Because another truth is, those that forget history are doomed to repeat it.
And though it’s another cliche, it’s still true. What doesn’t kill you does leave you stronger. You may not think so immediately, maybe you’ll never think it.
But it’s true, nonetheless. So as you’re looking at your most recent failure, check those blind spots. They’ll point you toward future success.