Sunday, December 19, 2004


One of the things people don't like to talk about is failure. I mean sure, we encounter adversity in life. People do conquer their problems. But let's face it, that's not always the case. Along with success comes the opposite: failure. Perhaps everyone I've met has encountered failure at least once in his or her life (and if you're actually someone who's never failed in anything, well, you've failed in failing). And of course, that's far from the most convenient of experiences. Which is why I want to talk about it.

I don't think anyone initially wants to fail. Failure is something that happens, sometimes no matter how hard you try, othertimes because you didn't exert enough effort. Failure, and its opposite, is sometimes a numbers game: for example, when it comes to exams, as long as you get a passing grade, you're not a failure. You're allowed to make a certain amount of mistakes. When it comes to most sports, it usually entails winning more than you lose. Sometimes though, it's not necessarily something that is measured in quantity. I mean during my stint in a call center, one good caller could make my day; it doesn't matter how many displeasing calls I got before that. Or when it comes to working on your relationship with other people (be it your family, friends, or significant other), it's not a matter of keeping count. But the one thing failure has in common is the fact that we experience it.

Now people react different to failure (and to people who fail). Some avoid it like the plague. Others learn from it and move on. Perhaps one of the most brilliant statements I've heard was from the editor-in-chief of a now-defunct online magazine. He mentioned that he was more interested in hiring someone who had failed than someone who was new and succeeded in everything that they did. Why? Because the former had experience, and they theoretically knew what worked and what didn't. Of course this assumes that the person who failed is the type of person who learns from their mistakes. I mean I know some people who are paralyzed by their fear of failing that they don't go out of their comfort zone because of the risks involved. One of the things I was told during my training as a call center agent was that my first day of calls will be the worst time of my life. And it was. But that's okay. I learned from it. And more importantly, I got back up. One of the overused but true statement during my stay there was "before you can get back up and run, you must fall down first". Sure, it was an unpleasant experience. But how else do I learn? How else do I grow? And while I try to avoid failure as much as possible, once I experience it, it becomes a memorable moment. And with memory comes remembrance, and from remembrance learning.

In any endeavor one pursues, one will encounter difficulties. If you're fortunate, you'll overcome it just like that. However, a more common result is failure. And to me, failure is good. It's a testament to your dedication, the true test of wills. If you failed and quit, then you probably don't want it badly enough. True courage means getting back up and keeping at it until you succeed. I mean we all make mistakes. But just because we make mistakes isn't an excuse to give up. If we did that, we'd learn nothing. I mean we surely fell down once in our life. Yet we managed to stand up, walk, and even run. Personally, I almost drowned learning how to swim. But that didn't stop me. Nor did it stop other people who were also learning how to swim. And when it comes to religion, many people complain to their god why them when they encounter tragedy. The philosopher Hume even asks if God was such a benevolent being, why does he allow suffering? I have a different answer to those questions, but when you think about it, it's because of these trials that true faith emerges. I mean how else will I know how dedicated I am to a particular belief or cause? It's by the trials we undergo, by our will to strive and continue, even against the harshest conditions.

Failure is only a real failure if we allow it to be one. I have a goal, I have a dream. I'll eventually fail in achieving that dream. Does that mean I give up? If I do, then that goal will never get accomplished. If I try again, then it's only a matter of time before I'll achieve that goal. Sure, it might cost me an arm and a leg. Or it might even take a long time. Let's be realistic here, after all. Not all problems can be solved just like that. It takes time and effort. It even means failing from time to time. Trial and error, after all, has perhaps been the oldest (although not necessarily the most efficient) way of learning things.

And in the end, because I'm a failure (not in the permanent sense), I shouldn't judge others too harshly as well. We're not perfect, after all. People make mistakes. People fall down. I should know, I'm one of them. Perhaps the best thing we can do for other people is to be there to support them as they get back up, and give a helping hand. I know I'd appreciate it if I were in that position.

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