I was watching The Taoism Grandmaster (2018) Chinese drama and the 2nd male lead character, Kun Lun, made a comment about failure that seemed so at odds with American culture. I enjoy watching Asian dramas because bits and pieces of their eastern thinking permeate the dialog and give a brief glimpse into their way of thinking which can be so different from typical Western belief systems.
At some point, Kun Lun had failed in one of his attempts to obtain a coveted piece of the armor in the drama. His comrade was commiserating on his failure, but Kun Lun’s reply was so point on. He said, “Failure is a part of the process, not the end result.” And it’s so true.
I had a clan-mate who failed to defeat Jad in Runescape 17 times. What did he do after getting mad? He looked at the mistakes he had made in his strategy. Did he need a different kind of armor? Different food to restore energy? Different weapons? Perhaps he should try with mage instead of range. Or, did Jad just spawn in the most difficult spot? He took each failure, adjusted his plan of attack, and went back into battle. Did he eventually succeed? Yes, eventually he did. No one likes to fail, but it is a part of the process and can provide valuable information that can be worked into the strategy of succeeding the next time. Evaluating failures rationally can help us improve our future chances of success.
I’m a little more cautious. I studied how to defeat the boss, Nomad, and watched many Youtube videos before I dared to confront him. I looked up the best strategies, weapons, food, and followers. Then, before I even tried to do battle, I entered his cave with no gear over 20 times just to get used to seeing him and get over the paralyzing fear of confronting one of Runescape’s most challenging bosses. I am a chicken, and take dying personally. I like to increase my chance of success and minimize the risk of failure. I realize that failures are an inherent part of life. However, forewarned is forearmed. Preparing the strategy and evaluating the odds for battle, or the recital, or the test, play just as much a part in achieving one’s goal as looking back on one’s mistakes after a failure. One can learn vicariously from other people’s failures and accelerate one’s progress towards success in achieving one’s goals.
Although I like to succeed just as much as the next person, I don’t really fear failure all that much. It just isn’t possible to be great at everything, and there are learning curves involved that must be respected because we are human and learning all the time.
When I look at history and other people’s personal stories, it is evident that although one might be born with talent, absolutely everyone MUST DEVELOP that talent over time. Geniuses still have to study and apply their skills in order to increase their talent. Musicians still must learn pieces, study theory, and develop their expertise. Inventors have hundreds of failure before they invent something worthwhile. When we read about amazing people with incredible achievements, we often forget about the tens of thousands of hours of practice that stand behind those inventions, musical masterpieces, great novels, or outstanding paintings.
So, I have come to realize that success is largely due to sheer perseverance and bullheadedness. Failure is a natural byproduct of pursuing a goal of any kind. The worst scenario would be to lose out on the possibility of success by letting the fear of failure prevent the attempt in the first place.
“Don’t fear failure.
Rather, fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.”