What do you like about fail?

Not the subjective experience of failure, but the fact of fail: the rather objective declaration that what you’d aimed for, projected, expected or worked toward did not, in fact, occur, appear or come to be.

At first blush, the answer is probably nothing. Who likes fail? Isn’t that inherently negative?

Maybe not.

What I like about Fail

I think there are elements of Fail that I can honestly say I like. Not in a “putting a positive spin on things” way, and not in a “every fail whale has a silver lining” way. I can identify pieces of Fail that I genuinely like.

1. The clean slate.

I’m not good with things in transition. I like black and white lines, clearly delineated beginnings and endings. If I know I’m moving on, I want to be done with what I’m moving on from before I start moving on. I don’t want to tie up loose ends and fit awkward pieces into new places. I want scorched earth: everything gone but that which lies ahead. It feels cleaner to me than gradual transition. Fail gives me that sense of a clearly delineated ending. What I just tried did not work. There are no iffy strands of maybe dangling around in my brain–it failed. It’s over. It’s like automatic permission to let go of the initial attempt or endeavor and put all of my resources into whatever’s next. I like that clean slate.

2. Confirmation that things are moving.

I don’t love the sensation of not getting what I thought I wanted. But I also hate the feeling that things are stuck, that someone stuck a metaphorical stick in my metaphorical gears and everything just halted. I dislike feeling stagnant, and I get bored when things stay the same for too long. I believe in cycles of growth and evolution, and in order to grow or evolve you’ve got to proceed through some Fail. So Fail means that wheels are turning, and that space is being made for new growth to occur. I like that space and movement, even if I don’t necessarily like the experience of failure that accompanies it.

3. Fail humanizes.

Fail opens doors to compassion, from the Self and from others. Fail makes way for lessons which, to paraphrase Churchill, I appreciate learning though I don’t always enjoy being taught. Fail lays bare the parts of me to which others can most readily connect. Fail breeds empathy for those with similar experiences. Fail reminds me to ask for help, and prepares me to give the kind of support only borne out of shared travails. Fail is a bit of a bridge between the lofty Big Visions in the sky to which I endeavor, and the earth under my feet that grounds me in daily reality.

The shared elements of Succeed and Fail

None of this should be read to mean that I hope for or eagerly anticipate Fail. I don’t. I like success, and I like the way it feels to succeed. I like the rewards that Succeed brings. Most of all, I acknowledge that there are elements of each of the above 3 aspects in Succeed just as much as Fail. At first, when I contemplated this, I thought that mooted my assertion that those are what I like about Fail.

But the more I considered it, the more I realized that the fact that those 3 elements are shared, or at least are reflected back and forth between Succeed and Fail, only solidifies my point. If I enjoy these aspects when they are delivered in the wrapping of Succeed, it’s not really genuine to claim I dislike them when they show up on my doorstep dressed in Fail’s clothing. They may be part of what I like about Succeed, but they’re still also what I like about Fail.

So, what do you like about Fail? And if your initial answer is “Nothing,” I issue a challenge to question that. Look for reflections between the experiences of Succeed and Fail. Yours may well be different than mine, but I strongly suspect that you’ve got some too. The question is, can you call them by name as strongly when they come bundled with Fail as you can when they’re part of Succeed?

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