Today, I want to write to you about failure. This is related to the first letter I wrote you two weeks ago, but this time I want to directly tackle your fear of failure. The timing is, perhaps, impeccable as you make your way with our parents to interview at various boarding schools.
You have mentioned how you feared that you are not good enough, that you are going to fail to impress the admissions at the various boarding schools. Well, the truth is, we all face failures throughout our lives. Whether it be failing to convince our parents to buy us that toy when we were a kid, to failing to be accepted by our dream school when we were in high school, to failing to land that “perfect” job when we graduated, or to failing to complete a project to satisfaction when we are worked.
You see, failure comes from having expectations. Expectations are standards of achievements we set for ourselves and sometimes for others. Not that there is anything wrong with having expectations; they provide us standards to strive for. Yet, through this lens almost everything can be defined as a failure. It is when we, or others, fall short of our expectations that we deem something as a failure, because what was achieved was not up to the standards we set. Most of the time, it happens because of things we cannot control.
As with most things in life, nothing is for certain. Sometimes, one minor detail result in failure: that terrible meal you had could give you a physical reaction that renders you temporarily infirm or that argument you had with your project team just before you are about to deliver. This is why failure is inevitable. We live in a world with a constantly changing and mostly imperfect set of conditions. Failure can happen to the best and the most prepared of us and that is completely okay. Hence, what is important is not that we failed, but that we pick ourselves up after.
What we learn as we grow is not that we should lower standards for ourselves, but that we should stop imposing our standards on others and on things out of our control. Not only will this ease the feeling of failure, it will ease your mind about failure. Once you accept the fact that you can only control your own actions and reactions, failure becomes based on what you can do for yourself. When you try your best, you learn something more about yourself and about your abilities and your standards. When you try your best, you meet your own standards. Now, meeting your own standards, that is success. Learning about yourself, that is success.
If you do fail your own standards, learn from what you did wrong. That can be defined as success. Having expectations about how you handle failure is a measure of success. Perhaps you failed to achieved what you set out to do, but the way you handle that failure can actually turn defeat into victory.
Remember, we will fail at various points in our lives because we are imperfect beings existing in an imperfect world. That is okay, because we can find success even when we fail.