I recently had the opportunity to talk to multiple classes full of high school students. These students reminded me of myself in many aspects and as I was considering what I should talk about, the idea of talking about my personal achievements arose, the stereotypical talking point for motivational speeches.
I did decide to bring up personal achievement to an extent so that those who were in the same seat as I was years ago, the ones who felt so uninspired by a institutionalized education system, could feel some semblance of hope that they too, are capable of greatness. Despite mentioning my achievements, I made it a point to talk about all of my failures, my embarrassing and hard to look back on failures, the kind which I thought I would never get past.
In many respects, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about who I really am since moving away from home and pursuing my most true goals and aspirations. One of the things I have since learned is that I actually hate receiving recognition for my achievements, it makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I recognized that I work at my absolute peak performance when I am down for the count, denied an opportunity, or people don’t believe in what can offer. Success is a delusional and idealistic piece of lexicon which can lead a person to believe that they are finished with their work or that they don’t have to do anything next. Success is not a dangerous thing to posses, but a very dangerous thing to believe you have, simply because you attained it at one point or another.
Considerable thought ended up being put into what was supposed to be a relatively simple talk to students who probably do not yet understand or wish to understand my philosophy at this junction in their life, so really, the thought put in was more for me I suppose. Failure, especially the embarrassing kind, motivates me to great extents which pushes me to go beyond the failure and attempt something even greater than what I just failed at. Fundamentally, in at least someway, failure has become an important part of my life. The unfortunate moments of personal failure, embarrassment, anxiety to admit or talk about it, has allowed me to open the doors which are available today. During the act of failing or giving up, there seems to be no way to cope with the decision to take the risk you did, or to overcome the failure you’re enveloped in… and yet without these things, different opportunity to succeed would have never opened itself up. Failure has a direct correlation with success as long as you’re willing to accept that it is the yin to the yang, the sacrifice for the end product, the necessary darkness to obtain light.
The mountain of personal successes, I’ve learned, really isn’t a mountain at all; what you see is most definitely not what you get. When people focus on individuals it is so easy to see their success and focus on it, yet the mountain of success isn’t really a mountain, it’s a snow capped garbage dump. To achieve the “cherry on top”, you have to accept that your path to either individual acts of, or sustained success, will be fundamentally paved in failure, some of which is difficult to conceive before you begin and during your attempts at greatness. It took me a long time to recognize what toxic traits I exhibit after being recognized for even the smallest facets of personal success. Most usually, when we recognize people for achievements, I’ve recognized over time that people often give up after receiving the recognition they believe they wanted or deserved, but really didn’t. The grandeur ideals of success as well as the recognition of it, is our emotional core misleading us into what we believe we want because it makes us happy to be recognized, and yet, it isn’t the actual reason we began to take our journey in the first place, it was far more personal than that.
When I talk to people and we go back and forth on life experience, stories or ideals, I am enthralled by those who often risked it all and went for broke. I get along with these individuals because I try and live by the same ideology. Do I want to go for broke and end up broke every time just to obtain limited personal success? No, however, I recognize that my ability to utilize lessons learned from not making my target have a unique ability to heighten my consciousness and propel me to new personal heights which are more sustained. It took many levels of failure, conflicting thoughts, absolving relationships and maintaining my distance, in order to win, think clearly, gain new relationships & partnerships, and get closer to my aspirations. I fear very little at this point in my life, most specifically I fear failure very little because I have the vast knowledge of dealing with it and know I’ll make it out the other end even better as long as I utilize lessons learned.
Those people I get along with most have failed in numerous significant ways. They have hit rock bottom, known loss, felt enslaved to complacency and have lived a roller coaster life. I get along with these people mostly because they have the most to offer the world in the way of lessons and wisdom. Those who remain complacent, spending their days hating existence and their current situation have very little to offer the world, which is why we should judge a person by their failure but not hold it against them. Our social motto of playing it safe to avoid failure is lame and teaches us nothing. Even worse, when people do take risks that they fail at, we have the ability to embarrass and obliterate their moral at the push of a button on our phones. People who have spent a significant time failing and learning from failure have far more to offer the world than those who have sat back and watched them do it in order to remain safe in their bubble of complacent and toxic behavior, holding their personal goals hostage just to maintain the limited version of life they are “living” but actually just going through it in repetitive autonomous motions.
Yes, we should judge people by their failures, we should see what risk they have taken to try and see what they are capable of, we should seek their wisdom in lessons learned and we should build off of it. No, we shouldn’t hold failure against these same people who ironically, most often see failure as the complacent behavior of those who are criticizing them. It is easy to sit back in the comfort of home and laugh at peoples failures while we maintain the same attitude and life we have had for years with no ability to offer ourselves more, it is easy to point out individual failure as we live a life which is completely opposite of the one we dreamed of when we were children and our consciousness was pure in dreaming big. It is difficult to admit that you failed, it takes courage in fact, and it is difficult to take the risk necessary to experience failure on your journey.
My personal development hasn’t been the culmination of the personal success I've had, it’s been solely based on failure and sacrifice which has in turn culminated to some level of personal success. When I speak to the students who sit in the seat I once did, I consider what they would most want to hear from the person in the front of the room. Although it is “cool” to hear about personal success, it isn’t what I most would have wanted to hear. I wish that someone would have stepped in front of me and told me that it takes vast failure to build just a little success and I wish someone would have given me permission to fail after high school. I wish someone would have told me that obtaining my goals hurts like hell and I will be dragged through the dirt. I wish that I knew the American dream is really just an illusion for the worship of materialism and doesn’t actually fill the void in my soul I felt, I wish someone would have told me that on my way to obtaining my highest aspirations, I have to be willing to give every ounce of myself or else it may not be good enough. I wish someone would have talked about the necessary sacrifice needed to take a journey worth talking about, worth living. I wish I was told to pick something I love and focus on creating it so intently that nothing else around me matters, to work so hard that the uncomfortable becomes comfortable. I am thankful for the interesting success stories I've heard but I realize how much of a fallacy it really is, and it provided me with no basis to obtain the same.
I wish we were judged more by our failures, and held to them less.