Enough With the “Failure Is Good For You” Bullshit

by robinhardwick

Countless business, productivity, motivational, and creative experts assure us that failure is good. Seek out failure! You’ll learn from mistakes. It will make you successful in the long run! It makes sense in theory, but you know what? Failure feels like absolute shit. I’ve failed at many things, especially as of late, and the feeling is what I would describe as excruciating. Disheartening. Yes, I take the time to see what I did wrong, but do I have the energy to pick it back up and try again? Usually not. It’s basic negative reinforcement- if I do something, produces a bad result, I won’t do it again. I’m not talking about a shrug of the shoulders and an “oh well”. It’s something that keeps happening, keeps reinforcing that you are not good at something. If you are able to shake off every negative consequence or failure, you are likely a sociopath.

All of these champions of failure are people who are currently on top. Sure, they may have “failed” along the way, but they’ve won in the game of life. Big time. If I win the lottery next month, I am sure I could write a self-help book about having an average income and being frugal taught me life lessons I use as being a billionaire. If I founded the next Facebook, I’d give a gazillion TED Talks about failure. If I was in the next Christopher Nolan movie, I’d have a good laugh about all the shitty auditions I’d been on. Louis C.K. had been doing standup for ten-plus-years before he is where he is now, but hey, it was all worth it, right?

The success stories all reflect the schema of American Dream. If you try hard enough, you can achieve anything. If you want something enough, you can get it. Except that most of us can’t and ultimately won’t ever achieve what we want. I understand that we can always adjust our goals, and what we think and what does make us ultimately content with our lives can change. And, its the journey, not the destination and about a thousand other cliched expressions. I just wish that more failures should write books, and give talks about how they never reached their dream and how they live with that ultimate failure. Because really, that’s what the reality is for most of us.

I want more creative and professional failures to talk publicly about how they live day after day with the failures. ? Do they have lifelong regrets? Do they feel inadequate? How about the talented comedy writer who moved to LA to write on a show and never got a job, gave up, and moved back to Minnesota? What about the startup that never got any traction, causing the founders to go in dept and then have to take a 9-5 office job? How about the promising professional in their field who never get the dream jobs, because of the bottleneck of opportunities as you move up in a career? How about the thousands of actors and musicians who never get as much as a single produced? I want to hear their story, how they have continued despite living with that failure. Because that is what 99% of us are dealing with.

Does that mean that 99% of us are deeply depressed and despondent? No, many people adjust their expectations and find alternates to fulfill them, but I want to know more about how they got there. We all can’t invent Facebook, write a best-selling novel, create a hit television show, be a CEO, own our dream home, raise the family we expected, or have the life we dreamed of. Yet, we carry on. When is that TED talk going to happen?