Most of us dread our “negative” feelings, those all too familiar traveling mates of Failure, and we will do anything we can to avoid having to feel the emotions that commonly accompany a fall.
Failure can bring a ton of emotions flooding down. We might feel humiliated, insignificant, overcome, ill-equipped, general bouts of low self-esteem, depression, loss and other emotions we might describe as “negative”.
We all want to do well. We all want to be recognized when we succeed. That’s the way we are built.
Many of us try so hard to stay far away from these potential emotions that, in doing so, we engage in behavior that causes us to hesitate, be indecisive, flippant, non-committal, and act in ways that mirror someone who is wobbling on a tightrope. A tightrope is no place to live.
If we commit to adventure (aka the UNKNOWN) we have the potential to fail, to be chewed up, to experience loss. Anytime you commit to the unknown, there is potential of all types.
Some parents work to shield their children from feeling bitter emotions. They do not want to see their children sad. Such children may grow well into adulthood, having never really known the feeling of failure and having never been given adequate opportunity in their youth to make a leap from the nest and to see if they can fly. Some of these individuals finally do make a leap, but upon landing, make a promise to themselves to never do that again.
I can honestly say that I have experienced significant failure, rejection and loss in my lifetime, to date. I can say, too, that I have experienced achievements that some marvel at. In looking at both my moments of success and failure, I can see that my successes often followed my failures, that the successes, in many cases, would not have been possible, had I not first failed.
No one can stay at the top forever.
Every empire falls, eventually.
What goes up must come down.
There is no mountain peak, without an accompanying valley.
Loss and failure are inevitable. They are part of life. If you do not do so already, I strongly encourage you to commit yourself so wholly to some adventure that you have the potential to fail.
If you do fail, you will know what it feels like. Let yourself feel those emotions. Don’t run from them, but rather, let them scar you. Robert Bly, in his book Iron John, speaks about how in myth; our strength comes from our scars.
If you find yourself in a place of failure, look through the ruins and ask yourself what the circumstances were that lead you to this place. How many of those causes are the result of your actions? How can you use that experience to avoid similar pitfalls in the future? Once the dusty cloud of your emotions settles and you are able to see more clearly, and can, consequently, be honest in your analysis of your situation, what promises can you make yourself?
Will you let failure keep you down or will you, with each experience of failure, stand up and start looking for ways to rebuild your wings?
In every hero tale, the hero goes through a process in which we, as an audience, believe they have died (literally or figuratively). In this stage, the hero is in the “Belly of the Whale”. In each of our hero adventures, the hero rises out of their defeat, out of the ashes of ruin and ascends. Their process of defeat and death has opened the potential for new birth—within themselves–new knowledge, new self-awareness, larger consciousness. As a result of their scarring, their experience, they are now more able, more capable of “slaying the dragon”.
With new birth, comes new opportunity, new potential. In the words of Joseph Campbell, “You have to crack some eggs if you want an omelet”.
Be the Hero.
Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The International Theatre Academy Norway, The Hart Technique and Sleeping Hero Productions.
This post was republished by request.