Friday, July 23, 2010

The F Word

Dear Faithful Readers,

I have a question for you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my favorite expressions:
“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

Failure. Now, there’s a scary word….but how would you define it? When you’re in school, you can say, “I’ve failed the test.” It’s true, plain and simple.

But, how about in life? Failure takes on a whole new meaning. I was surprised by how many descriptions I found for this word in the Encarta Dictionary:

1) Be unsuccessful: “This plan can’t fail.”
2) Be unable to do something: “She failed to see what the problem was.”
3) Not pass exam or course: “He failed English.”
4) Collapse financially: “The business failed after six years.”
5) Stop functioning or growing: “The brakes on the car failed.”
6) Judge student not good enough: (no example given)
7) Let somebody down: “My courage failed me.”
8) Become weaker: “The light began to fail.”
9) Stockbroker’s default: (no example given)

Of course, the opposite of fail is success. Again….a tough word to describe, depending on who you ask. Success is defined as “the achievement of something planned or attempted”.

So, does this mean that if you don’t achieve your goal as originally planned that you’re what? Done? Game over? Move on...I’m sorry…you have achieved an EPIC FAIL. (Borrowed from Fierce-hope she doesn’t mind) What about all these famous people I hear about on The Biography Channel who were rejected, rebuffed, rebutted, refused, released, renounced, repelled, resisted or otherwise restricted from role after screenplay after manuscript by people who swore with all their expertise that they didn’t have what it took to succeed? And yet, against what seemed like insurmountable odds, they did.

I read an article recently about choreographer Twyla Tharp. She came to New York City from Indiana and her obsession was dance. After graduating from college, she went on many auditions and was told she lacked the technical skills to be a ballerina…and lacked the stature to be a Rockette. Every way she turned, she faced rejection. According to her autobiography Push Comes to Shove, she wondered if she’d ever be a dancer…even questioned if she had any business dancing. She decided the only way to find out was to form her own troupe, creating a style of dance she could call her own. Failure was not an option…she merely revised the method to achieve her goal. Her first dance troupe practiced in her local Greenwich Village Church for five years…earning little pay and even less recognition. She’s quoted as constantly asking herself, “Do you want to do this, or don’t you?” Today, Twyla Tharp has choreographed over 100 dances on Broadway, won numerous awards, choreographed dances for several movies and has 40 years of experience under her belt. Today, she still asks herself the same question…and the answer is still “yes”.

And so, my question to you is in two parts: What would YOU do if you knew you could not fail? And, does failure truly exist? Or is it simply a sign that we should try again…or go through another door…or find a way to redirect or redefine whatever it is we’re striving for?

I can't wait to read your responses...but I understand if it takes you a while to get to it. Especially now that 99.9% of us have officially announced we're procrastinators. I'd go back and confirm that figure but I've gotta go hit the bank...I'm two days late as it is. Did I ever get gas?

Enjoy your weekend, all!

Anonymous said...

Oh you can use 'Epic Fail' any time you want!

I suppose that the meaning of failure depends on how badly you want to succeed in the first place. Like if you were doing something because you were told to and not because you actually wanted to, failure could be seen as a sign that you aren't actually cut out for the task and should go back to what you were doing before you were coerced into doing the task at which you failed (does that make any sense?)

Now, on the other hand, if your task is a mission, a dream, a life-long passion of yours, then failure would be a sign that perhaps it's time to take a step back and re-evaluate your strategy; take another look at the drawing board so to speak.

BUT again, if you are an unrepentant procrastinator, failure is a sign that you should have put off whatever you failed at until *insert tentative date here*


Aquarius said...

“There are no failures - just experiences and your reactions to them.”
^I agree with this. Some say failure is basically only when you give up or stop trying. BUT then the people who have already stopped trying would completely give up and just sink deeper into whatever hole they've dug themselves into. The thing is is that you can always turn back and keep trying. There is no way that you can't keep trying, no matter what.
I believe there are no failures in life. Being 'unable to do something' isn't failure. That's just plain being unable. Not being able to grow wings and fly isn't failure. That's just being UNABLE. I think that must be the greatest confusion, that people tend to mix those two words up: unable and failure.

And if I couldn't fail? Well, since I just said there's no such thing as real failure, I don't have much of a choice, aye? My goal is save lives. I don't know (and maybe don't care) how. But if you ever find me not trying my best to save lives, I'm either going to be dead or locked in an insane asylum. I see my goal, and no one will EVER get the satisfaction of telling me that I'm a failure or that I didn't try hard enough.
There are no failures, and no one can stop you from trying. If your goal is to fly Mars, go for it. Shoot, if your goal is to be a serial killer, go for it, but that, my friend, interferes with my goal, so I would have to hunt you down.

Goodness, I'm ranting. Anyways, I believe that there is no such thing as true failure. I wish you all luck in your future endeavors. =)
love, aquarius

Kelly@MentalGarbage said...

That's a tough one! Hmm... If I knew I couldn't fail, I would probably try to become an actress...

Or start making the jewelry and bags that I want to make and start a store to sell them in...

Ailish said...

What would I do if I couldn't fail.. Everything.
You've no idea how much I would do.

Anonymous said...

oh good question...

I think you cannot fail something that you were truly never mean't to have sucess at no matter how hard you try. I do see that this means I believe in destiny,,,

Carol said...

If I knew I couldn't fail I would quit my job, buy a beach house and write, write, write!! One day soon I will.........

Straight Guy said...

Beyond looking out for my family... I still need 2 answers, the responsible one and the selfish one.

If I couldn't fail in helping people, what would I do? Cure something? Fix something? Negotiate a lasting peace somewhere? Solve the energy/pollution/population problems? Yeah. Something in that last area.

Selfishly? Man, this is shallow... Can I have one show as a rock star? To shake an arena, get everyone out of their seats, leave them wanting more. I can't imagine the fear and stage fright, but you said that I can't fail, so I guess the rock star swagger and confidence is built in, right?

climb2nowhere said...

First off, great post! I love that you're posing this question because I've thought about it alot. I think it goes back to loving the journey and not the destination. If you love what you're doing every step of the way then how can it be a failure? We're so results driven today with the bottom line being all that counts, but I've found if you enjoy the pursuit of whatever it is you're trying to achieve even if you are "rejected" it's not a failure it's part of the process. At the end of the day if you can say you love what you do then it's never a failure in my book and most successful people have "failed" many many times over! It's a marathon!

Anonymous said...

Wow good question....I think that if you don't succeed keep trying...Each failure shapes who we are and makes us appreciate what we achieve....In saying that if I really couldn't fail I would pursue my favorite rock star till he marries me...LOL!

Oddyoddyo13 said...

What would I do? EVERYTHING. That's my plan-to do/see EVERYTHING. To never say I've never done something or have never seen something.

I think failure only exists if you let it-if you just give up. If you don't give it your all, how will you have succeeded?

Gigi said...

Deep Kathryn....too deep for me at this particular moment. I'm gonna have to go off into a corner and chew on this one before I come back with a real response. Now, I see how I will spend my nice quiet weekend (if THEY ever leave). Pondering.

Lauren said...

What would I do... I'd be happy. And I don't think I've failed at anything. Every "failure" has answered a question, has made me reconsider and find a new path. I think you can only truly fail if you don't learn anything or move on from that one incident. If you keep getting up and trying, it's called learning from experience, determination, persistence; it's not failing. In my opinion anyway.

Heather said...

I think the only time I have ever used the word "Fail or Failed" is in reference to school. Even then I'm not sure I used that word, I most likely used the word "flunked".

I am a true believer in the "try, try and try again" method of life. It's not failing, it's just a matter of not yet succeeded.

Vince said...

The odd thing about it is your last commenter has it about correct. In adulthood you never have that absolute straight statement of fail. And when you have, you have something to work with. For honestly the really hard thing as an adult is to hold a course when all about you are telling you it's -your life- is in error.

Christopher said...

if i knew i couldn't fail i'd strive to become dictator of the world, i'd be an awesome supervillian

Wendy Ramer, Author said...

Yes, I believe failure does exist. But I don't think it's the end of the road. It's more like what you said...simply a sign that we should try again, or go through another door or find a way to redirect or redefine whatever it is we’re striving for.

Failure is only a step (or a few hundred) on the road to success.

Unknown said...

This is a toughie... As you say, it kind of all depends on how you define failure & success. Success can mean simply being able to do something - not necessarily doing it well/profitably. The things that I hold back on for fear of "failure" are work-related, and not things I don't think I can do, but things I'm not sure I can do well enough to support myself. If I knew I could not fail - and would in fact do well - I would either a) quit my 8:30-5 job (really, who works 9-5 these days?!?) and do freelance writing full time OR b)cash out my 401K and sell my house and use the proceeds to buy a bed & breakfast on the ocean somewhere.

A girl can dream...

Gigi said...

Finally! I've quit chewing on this and am coming out of my corner. For most people, I think, failure isn't an option. Period. If you don't give up and come at your problems from another perspective - then it isn't failure. It's perseverance. And people like you? They don't fail. Period. The ones that fail are those that give up completely and totally. Sure, sometimes you have to adjust your sights and goals, but that isn't failure that is reality.

Now what would I do if I was guaranteed not to fail? This is a question that I cannot answer. Because there is too much that I would do with that guarantee. But I'll tell you this - when I set my sights on a goal I KNOW I will get there one way or another. I may have to take a few steps back and several sideways....but eventually? I'll get there.

Spot said...

Every failure is only a redirection. Wow. I totally just came up with that. I'm so glad you posted this. I just don't consider failure an option. If you find yourself blocked from a goal it means you have to rethink it and come at it from another angle or look for a new direction. The only true failure is stagnation.


kathryn said...

Fierce: Oh, so glad you were the first comment! Glad you don't mind my borrowing your fav Twitter expression. I LOVE your answer...I think you've covered EVERY CONCEIVABLE BASE on this issue. How, in God's name...did you get to be so freakin' smart???

Aquarius: God, I LOVE this comment! And you are totally NOT ranting...I loved every minute of your logic...your idea that what people perceive as failure can be re-thought of as unable. And I'll add to this by saying I get crazy when my son says "I can't." What do you mean, 'you can't'?? You haven't even tried yet! Thank you for this honest and generous comment, my friend. I promise that serial killer is not in my future...and I'm guessing there's going to be a lot of saved lives in yours.

KellyGrrl: Well, there you go. The jewelry and bags are probably something you're pretty good at, yes? I wish we all had the freedom to follow some of these passions and unfulfilled dreams we have. Wouldn't that be wonderful??

kathryn said...

Ailish: Really? So much that you don't do now? Well, that I'm thinking about it, I guess I can relate. God, it's the fear of failure...whether monetarily, or in our hearts...there's so much stuff to stop us, right?

Sir Thomas: Ooooo...'destiny'...that's a heavy one. So, you must believe that everything happens for a reason... kismet and all that? I'd no idea you were so deep. (Yes, I did.)

Carol: Aw, honey! I KNOW you will! I've often wondered what would happen if we absolutely convinced ourselves that we'd just signed a book deal...could actually picture the advance check and the contracts. Would we bring the dream into reality? Or would we be committed to the nearest asylum??

kathryn said...

Straight Guy: I. Had. No. Idea. Of course you'd solve the world's problems first...but'd rock da house?? Wow. You're right...what an amazing feeling it must be to move people straight out of their seats....I can't imagine. I also can't imagine the stage fright but I'll bet once the music starts...and the crowd begins to cheer....SG? I think that's your cue-

climb2nowhere: Oh, it sure IS a marathon! I love your attitude, girl! Yes, it would be great to end each day saying, "I love what I do" but I think the end of the day would be even sweeter if you could somehow KNOW on some level that the destination would eventually be exactly what you'd expected...that no matter how rocky the matter what the sacrifice to get're guaranteed to get there. I'm just saying....

Christiejolu: I hear that! And can always 'persue'....and stop just short of 'stalking', right? I'm always just amazed when I hear these stories about these amazingly talented people who almost didn't get recognized at all....if they'd given up.

kathryn said...

Oddyoddyo13: Wow. That's pretty insightful, honey. You're correct, of course....if you willfully give up, then you'll definitely fail. That's a given, right?

Gigi: Aw....I didn't mean to give you homework, sweetie! I chew on this kind of thought all the time...whilst driving, especially. It gnaws at me.

Lauren: I love this comment, honey. It's absolutely perfect...and how (in my opinion) we should all think. I can't think of anything to's that perfect.

kathryn said...

Heather: Wonderful attitude, sweetie. And I agree...sometimes, you have to just try, try again. Success could be right around the corner!

Vince: That's the thing...I mean, do we have more self-doubt as kids...or as adults? I always figured as kids, you kind of think you're invincible. I figured self-doubt comes in as we mature...and then we wonder, "What the hell am I doing?"

Christopher: Oh. Um. So...we shouldn't be encouraging you to fulfill your that what you're telling me?

kathryn said...

Wendy Ramer: I'm glad you agree. Sometimes, I'll imagine that I'm telling the story of how close I came to almost going in one direction...and then I'm smiling and saying how it was serendipity that it all worked out. Life would be great if we could benefit from hindsight ahead of time, don't you think?

ValleyWriter: Wow....I'm loving your dreams. And I'd definitely visit your bed & breakfast on the ocean somewhere, just so you know...ahead of time...'cause I'll expect the BEST room you've got. I wonder sometimes if we could literally convince ourselves that we could succeed in what we really wanted to do...would that be enough?

Gigi: Oh, I LOVE this answer! Totally worth the wait, sweetie! I love your undeterred determination...that certainty...the fact that you don't let the sidesteps distract you! You are my hero!

Spot: Woah. So, you've basically said that "Every failure is only a redirection...and the only true failure is stagnation"?? Freakin' genius....that's what you are. You should write that down. Seriously.
(I'm not kidding here...this is freakin' perfect.)

Alicia said...

I've thought about this one long and hard. What would I do if I knew I couldn't fail. I would buy a horse farm somewhere in Kentucky. A huge place to raise and breed and race horses. With lots of rolling green hills and a husband like Robert Duvall in the movie Something to Talk About.

I think failure only exists in not trying. So I've failed miserably in horse breeding and finding a man like Robert Duvall!

Jerry said...

Failure is a nugget of experience. I gotta' believe that or...

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