A Sidebar on Failure

In a world swarming with social calamities, brought intensely by media to the point they are not only inescapable but forced mightily on our eyeballs, we might feel our failures more expressly broadcast during our worst moments. There are those who claim failure is “not an option”; those who seem impervious to this interloping outcome so apparent for many of us: their secret rests with them. Whether it is work, fitness, nutrition, relationships or academics, surely most of us can lay claim to a failure.

Less than one year ago, I walked away from success. Having landed my dream job at an organization I stood behind – and still do – I decided seven months in that I needed to be surrounded by the pillars of a research University…and I needed a shorter commute. Did it matter that this organization had built entirely new departments, created my position for my specific skillset, and was just approaching a new level of success it dared not envision previously? Not at the time. I hated driving on 295 for nearly 3 hours a day; I hated being tired all the time; I saw corporate interests moving in a direction that I didn’t understand; and I “missed” Academe. Curiously I’ve found that constantly seeking greener pastures eroded my capacity for satisfaction, perhaps because I held in my clutches the very bauble I coveted…then dropped it. “Failure” in this instance is dual-pronged: I failed the organization by leaving, and I’ve failed myself by entering a position that I like, but in which I still feel unsatisfied. Daily, I question, “Is this it?” This is quite negative, I realize.

Even in our successes we can enemize ourselves: I am an essential magistrate of dropping successes and seeking opportunities that rarely end in my favor! But rather than a diatribe on my personal failures, I suggest this as both a lesson and perhaps a comparison of sorts, for although I am witness to the continued success and impressiveness of my former employer via social media, I am implored to consider that even failures – actual or perceived – have a plan and a solution. Understanding this allows us to unshackle ourselves from the flesh-tearing grips of failure.

Seeking to reclaim or reinforce satisfaction – to find passion – we are better served enquiring “What is this?” rather than “Is this it?” The touchstones on our path to success that prompt such introspection keep it real, making it the journey that encourages evolution. By evaluating the circumstance and the driving forces leading to it we remove some of the negativity and perhaps a sense of entitlement.

What is your failure? Face it, own it, understand what it means to you and decide how you can fix it. Did you cheat on your diet? Stop a run or a workout before it was “supposed” to be finished? Did you forget to study or perform poorly on a test? We’ve all been there – every last one. So, what’s your plan? How are you going to be better than yourself tomorrow?

Rounding out the example, I am taking a thorough inventory of my skills, considering every job I’ve held – every.single.one. – and deciding what makes me the best corporate version of myself. When am I challenged? When am I the most productive? What do I find invigorating to discuss and work through? Through all of this, I am keeping conscious about my diet and my workouts – that absolutely helps! Let’s be better tomorrow, together.


Meta Sidebar: A wonderful article on the Spencer Institute Blog that articulates my sentiments more eloquently:



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