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You Are Free to Fail

Failure: The dreaded F-word. It has quite a hold on us, doesn’t it? Whether male or female, young or old, and whether we consciously make it a point to recognize it or not, a fear of failure can affect the majority of decisions we make.

 Perhaps it’s even instinctual, contemplating our options as human beings in whatever situation we may find ourselves. Attempting to choose the best route to success has programmed us to fear a wrong choice. To miss the turn-off. To falter in our steps. To do something less than perfectly. All of these possibilities can be crippling in their potential.

“Attempting to choose the best route to success has programmed us to fear a wrong choice.”

We want to be dreamers, and we want to be doers and achievers of our dreams. But what if that doesn’t happen for us? Is real failure found in giving up too soon, or in a refusal to give up when the writing’s on the wall?

Walt Disney was told he lacked creativity. Oprah Winfrey was fired from one of her first jobs on television. Lucille Ball was known as “Queen of the B-Movies.” J.K. Rowling lived on welfare. Only after being cut from the US Olympic figure skating team did Vera Wang enter the fashion industry. When no record label would sign him, Jay-Z started his own. A director at MGM once noted that Fred Astaire could only “dance a little.”

We may know all of these stories, or we may know none of them, but the point is that nobody is immune to those moments that can interrupt our goals. The key isn’t making it through life easily, but in knowing what to do with the hard lines and frayed edges when we encounter them. And the truth? There is no right answer.

For failure to loose its grip on us, we need to be willing to let our measure of success evolve. There is no right way to live a triumphant life. We get to choose how hard we want to work toward something, and we get to decide when we want to set that thing aside for the sake of something else.  As we grow and mature as individuals, there is a freedom to be found in building our own road. If we never learn to appreciate the work that goes into this, we’ll always be straining for the benchmarks someone else has set.

“There is no right way to live a triumphant life. We get to choose how hard we want to work toward something, and we get to decide when we want to set that thing aside for the sake of something else.”

Wisdom and inspiration play a role in our evolution. We need people in our life who can say the hard thing for the right reasons, and who love us enough to force wind into our depleted sails. The emotions that can surface when we’re dealing with rejection are hard, but a no can anchor the soul in a deeper yes if we let it. We conquer failure when we embrace it; when we let it salt our wounds but refuse to give the pain the final word.

Perfection has always been our greatest foe, not failure. Perfection is the offered fruit, the easy way out, the lie that eclipses the “what could be” on the horizon. Failure only has the power that we give it. So why not let it keep us humble, keep us creative, and set us free?

By Nicole Ziza Bauer