Pursue Failure Aggressively

Do Not Fear Failure

As a young man, you’ll often hear “I hope you will succeed.” As you embark on most endeavors, you’ll be sent off with best wishes and good tidings. You’re told that things should go well, and even though they may take hard work, that they should proceed along well established routes, a secure progression towards the life you desire. I respectfully disagree.

…because ultimately, success without failure only means one thing: you could have done better.

Pursue failure. Pursue it aggressively.

Learn to challenge yourself as frequently as you can. Experience catastrophic failures frequently. Learn that those things which make it seem in the moment as though your world is ending, rarely seem important anymore just a few weeks or months later.

As a young man, failure is so much more valuable than success, because ultimately, success without failure only means one thing: you could have done better.

Failure at first is a terrifying thing, it shakes our self confidence, our belief that we’re good and competent. As you fail more, it evolves into a wonderful thing, as it shows you that true competence and true skill come not from avoiding failure or ignorance, it shows you that failure is a wonderful gift.

It’s the only path to true growth, because it means that you’re entering into the unknown, and while it will certainly mean fumbling around in the dark, it also means you’ll find the light switch long before those who stand still for fear of tripping.

Because of TV and the internet, too frequently our celebrities’ abilities are made to appear almost parthenogenic. We watch and cheer our favorite athletes, and laud the likes of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs for their achievements, but too often we ignore and gloss over the work that went into their moments in the sun. We forget that both Jobs and Musk came within inches of going broke. We ignore the failures, counting them as sacrifices on the alter of greatness.

Failure is the greatest outcome in life for two reasons: it means you attempted to expand your horizons, and more importantly, you sought to repair your own ignorance.

Prior to achieving that greatness though, the question must be asked: if you fail, and simply fail, what is the consequential payoff? It’s quite different discussing the sagacity of betting on a winning horse after the race measured against the fear which mounts as the starting gun fires, and yet that doubt is too often forgotten in the thrill of victory.

The honest modesty of ‘I think this is the right choice, and I have the courage to attempt it’ is too often replaced after success by the false narrative of ‘I’m just so smart I knew that would work.”

Sadly,  that narrative, while pleasing to our prideful nature, is damaging to subsequent generations who are in the midst of the storm, and need the encouragement of humility more than the false surety of the hubristic false-narrative of pre-ordained greatness.

Sadly, too often, those with naturally endowed gifts stand on the heights of their abilities and look down on those less fortunate, asking why others didn’t do as much as they did, ignoring their preternatural advantages, instead of asking what they themselves could have done if they pushed themselves harder than they did.

Failure is the greatest outcome in life for two reasons: it means you attempted to expand your horizons, and more importantly, you sought to repair your own ignorance.

As a young man, all the world is before you, and so much is unknown to you. Swallow hard, steel yourself to the fact that failure is, paradoxically, the only path to true success, and venture out into the dark.

About Will Dawson

Will Dawson runs a distillery down in Appalachia. He builds furniture in his free time. Before making whiskey, he ran a contracting company. He has a BA in History from Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. He likes long walks on the beach and talking about your feelings.

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