Imagine a world without failure.
Imagine a world where you succeed. A world where success is what you do. Period.
Imagine a world not stifled by the fear of failure. A world where we’re not prevented from doing because we’re scared we might not get there. Imagine a world where failure is not an option.
Imagine: A World Without Failure
For years I dreamed about such a world. I longed for it. I was paralyzed within my self-inflicted normality with the fear of failing to succeed. What if I could just know I would succeed? If I knew it would work out, if I just knew I wouldn’t fail, there were countless things that I would do. Things that I REALLY wanted to do. Things that I had to do.
These things were important to me. I didn’t just want them. I REALLY wanted them. I had this burning fire, this need, consuming me. I wanted them so badly that I was scared. Petrified. I was scared I would fail in achieving them and that they would then be swept away forever like a piece of drift wood swirling within the immensity of an ocean. I was scared that I would never achieve. And so, by failing to take action, by failing to commit, by failing to address these challenges I had in my life, I failed to achieve.
But I would still imagine. I would keep the dream alive. I kept a dose of possibility stored somewhere knowing that maybe, one day, I would pluck up the courage and succeed. But, at the same time, I knew that I never would. I was scared of failing. And this fear, some of the largest fear that I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve experienced some pretty big fears), consumed me. Paralyzed me.
There I was, someone that achieved, that conquered. In other walks of life, in the more mundane, I succeeded. But, when it mattered, I cowered. I cowered to my fear. I was a leader, a team player, a motivator. People that knew me saw some of my accomplishments and successes. Yet what they saw was the outward projection of my character and not the true, hesitant, less-confident, semi-introverted individual. The one that was scared.
But I wasn’t just scared. It was worse. We all have fears. We’re all scared. But, for most of us, we pluck up the courage, stand up and face them. We know that life deals some tough challenges at times. And, when it happens, it may not be pleasant, but we stand up. We face them. We deal with them. But not me. I was cowering in the corner. The guy that jumps out of planes, off cliffs and flies wingsuits in the mountains. The guy with the successful career that cowers to no man. Yet I was cowering, to myself.
As I cowered, I would sit back and imagine. I would imagine a world without failure. I would imagine a world where I succeeded.
But then I would reimagine. I would reimagine my past, my accomplishments, my successes, my failures. I would reimagine what this new world would have meant for them.
I kept imagining. I kept reimagining.
I realized that this dream world, this imagined world, could not possibly be a real world. It could not possibly be a world that I could live within. A world without failure is a world without color, a world without depth, a world without beauty. For to fail is but one of the joys in life. Without the possibility of failure we can’t have the elations of success as we overcome the obstacles stacked along our path. Suddenly, success would have no meaning and without meaning what, deep down, is life?
With this realization, with this reimagination, I battled my demons.
It wasn’t simple. This new found awakening didn’t suddenly make it easy. The mental anguish still appeared absolutely overwhelming at times. Yet, I started to pursue.
I veered off the track I was on, focussed my career differently, stepped outside of my own comfort zone and took the fork of the path that I, myself, wanted to take, not knowing where it would lead.
I hoped that, with this new found confidence, I would succeed. That I would achieve some of my life goals – the ones that I had been too scared to pursue before. I had escaped the paralysis of the fear of failure, but failure was still very much an option. An option that I still had immense fear of.
I’d love to conclude by saying that I succeeded. To report that once we break out of this paralysis, once we accept failure and accept that failing is ok, we remove it as a possibility. The reality, for me, wasn’t so.
My dream was in tatters. At least, that’s what my imagination had shown me. Having failed, I had now eliminated that possibility from my life. Yet, after a few tough days with some detailed reflection and introverted analysis, I reached a new conclusion.
I had a new base line. A new line in the sand. By failing I had ruled something out. It might not have been exactly what I had planned for my life but, removing possibilities is just as important as opening up other possibilities. In fact, by failing, by closing the door, new horizons opened. I could now move on. I wouldn’t continue to spend my life wondering: “what if?”
Imagine a world without failure.
Or, instead, let’s redefine failure. Let’s remove the stigma that makes it weigh so heavily upon our shoulders.
Let’s reimagine. Let’s reimagine a world of experiments. Experiments that we create along our journey of life. Some experiments succeed – we get the results we wanted and planned for. Some experiments don’t follow the plan – perhaps we used to know these as failures. Now reimagine these experiments and the gifts they give. These experiments, these experiences provide us with life lessons, with building blocks. Sometimes they close possibilities, sometimes they open other possibilities. The outcome might be uncertain but the journey is certainly going to be a ride we don’t just want to take, it’s a ride we have to take.
Embrace the acceptance of failure.
Imagine. Re-imagine. Act.
Main photo by Trey Ratcliff showing Angkor Wat.