Failure is the First Step

Anytime we do anything, we risk failure.

Let that sink in for a moment. Really, really sink in.

Anytime we do anything, we risk failure.

Let’s take walking as an example–because most people have (or have had) the ability to walk. It’s something we do every day, without even thinking about it.

With every step you take, you risk tripping or stumbling or otherwise falling flat on your face. But when was the last time fear of that little failure, fear of stumbling, stopped you from walking? When was the last time that actual failure, actually tripping and falling over, made you stay on the ground, refusing to ever try walking again?

My guess is never.

We’ve all heard that old cliche, “Success is a journey.” But too often we forget that failure is the first step. And often the second, and the third, and the fourth…

The only way for us to learn to walk is to stumble, again and again. And even when we think we’ve got it down, even when we’ve been doing it for decades, the risk of stumbling is still there, always lingering.

The same can be said of anything we choose to do, and especially those things that make life worth living: sports, art–and, for me–writing. The possibility of failure is always there, and especially so when taking those first wobbly steps.

Yet too often most of us, myself included, let our fear of certain kinds of failure blow insanely out of proportion. The fear of failure cripples us. Or rather, we allow the fear to cripple us.

Example: if (when) I do fail as a writer, and write something awful, what’s the worst that could happen? My hard drive won’t explode. My grandma won’t have a heart attack.

The absolute worst possible outcome is that I write something I don’t like…and learn to do better next time. Which makes each moment spent on that “failure” worth infinitely more than all the hours wasted doing something with no (read: less) risk of failure. Why should I be scared of failure? Failing is the first step.

We forget that failure is not only inevitable, it’s necessary. That without it, we cannot improve. That without the threat of it, everything would easy–and easy can be fun, but it’s never satisfying.

Most importantly, we forget that failing isn’t a big deal. It’s actually a good thing. To fail, you have to at least be trying–and nothing is a greater mentor than past mistakes. I am especially terrible at remembering this.

So this is me, reminding myself, and reminding you: give yourself the gift of failure. Without it, you cannot walk. And if you cannot walk, you certainly cannot run galloping through the fields of success.

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