For several years in my professional career I recycled a joke to state how I had made it to where I was in life. “I’ve just failed my way upwards!” This was used as a way to explain away the feeling of not actually knowing how to do anything. As far as I was aware, I had simply gotten lucky and happened to be in the right place at the right time. As time has progressed and I’ve continued to fail my way upwards, I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Failing is the rub. There are a few different ways to look at failure.
F.A.I.L. First attempt in learning. When you accept that you can’t immediately be good at everything right from the start, you can learn to accept any failure as an attempt in learning. Pick up a musical instrument, a martial art, or take up a foreign language. I don’t mean this in a passive sense. Sincerely put effort into learning a language, getting punched in the face, learning guitar, the trumpet, drums, or piano. You will fail so often you may just become immune to the feeling of failure and simply come to know it as “learning.” Accept failure and use it as an opportunity to practice the virtue of patience. Through this, any discipline is possible. That patience and acquired knowledge of how to learn translates to any endeavor.
The biggest gift from failure is learning what does not work. By knowing what doesn’t work, you’re implored to try different avenues. The obstacle that is stopping you from moving forward becomes an enigma worth solving. In that, you exercise patience and grow in experience.
The “failing upwards” joke still lives on, but the perspective I have on it has changed completely. I’ve learned that any form of success is simply you, standing on the apex of the mountain of your failures. In this sense I’ve failed upwards by repeatedly failing, piling up those experiences, and moving forward and upwards. Failure is natural, the human instinct to focus on and regret it is a foolish endeavor void of purpose.