Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Failure: the flip-side of success

What if a failure in life is not the end of a dream, but the beginning of something more meaningful? (Dr Yap)
I affirm it wholeheartedly. We are risk averse, especially to the risk of failure. Failure scares us a lot. Even the thought of it is enough to cause within us a paralyzing shudder. Failure costs us a lot too. You name it. Bruised ego. Financial ruins. Bleeding hearts. Broken reputation. Nobody needs to teach us that failure is to be avoided. It is worse than a school
bully who teases, mocks, taunts and abuses you. Failure destroys you. It is not just an end of a dream. It is the start of a nightmare. This is how failure is normally viewed by society. How about success?
Success is different, apparently. Success is the proverbial knight in shining armor. Success is like the Osim massage chair. Like a throne, you sit on it and wait to be massaged, pampered and served. Success heals too. It heals your ego, burnishes your reputation, brings back friends, attracts opportunities and enriches you. Success is the 
beginning of a dream come true. Nobody needs to teach us that success is to be pursued. The society loves a good success story. And at the same time that we are envious of it, we also feed on it. We can't live without it. Success like the fountain of youth breathes life into everything you touch.
So, here we have failure and success standing before us like two oliver twist with an empty bowl, begging to be distinguished. But, are they really the proverbial opposites or is there something more to it than meets the eye? Are the twain never to meet? 
But if we view it through the lens of society, the bias for one against the other is as thick as cement. One is the beloved of mankind. The other is cursed to the bottom of the sea. One is enthroned and worshipped. The other is as taboo as a leper colony. One is
 welcomed with open arms and the other is forever blacklisted as pariah rejects. No prize for guessing which one belongs to which category.
But here's the truth about failure and success (as I see it). Failure is the flipside of success and vice versa. As one wise man once said, “Failure carries the seed of future success, and success carries the seeds of failure.” So, there is no success without failure. Pushing the envelop a little, here’s the irony: there is no failure without success because that which succeed brilliantly also fails brilliantly, if not more. I guess that is why a serial entrepreneur once hollered, “one must boldly rescue failure from the arms of success!” Seen in this unconventional light, there is such thing call the tyranny of success and this happens when a man loses everything he cares most about just so that he could gain anything he cares least about. It is therefore a bargain for fools because the end doesn’t justify the means.
So, this is the caution to be driven into the heart of success: Gloat not when you succeed because living successfully comes with a price,
 and that is, failing equally successfully. Ironical hor? Like Newton said, every failure brings him closer to success. And I guess every success (mostly blinded ones) brings one closer to failure? Following this unconventional wisdom, however, paradoxical, I see failing for reasons of trying and trying most diligently as consistently succeeding and this equation is best expressed in these words, “There can be no failure amidst the act of striving.” It is what many would call “living life forward” or “falling forward”. One author, Eric C Sinoway, juxtapositions “failing forward” and “succeeding backward” together and I think you get the drift. Now which is the proverbial knight in shining armor and which is worse than a school bully is not that obvious right?
But then, here’s the bugbear. If failure is the flipside of success and success is the result of failing with never-say-die tenacity or “the result of the act of striving”, aren’t we back to square one when succeeding via failure ultimately means failing just as brilliantly as succeeding? I hope I am not spinning at one spot and going nowhere. But here is where I close and hopefully reconcile the two in jolly matrimony.
You see, the issue is not about failing (or succeeding). We all experience it in our lives (failure that is). It is as unavoidable as skinned knees, blistering acnes and an intractable fringe. The problem is a mindset change. We need to see failure as the start of a dream and success as the blossoming 
of it and the dream goes on and on in that epiphany-like, renewing and recycling partnership. We need to know that every step counts however insignificant they seen to us and the journey has no destination, no end. As such, failures are as interchangeable as successes and successes are as interlocking as failures. Ben Franklin once said, "Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by the little advantages that occur everyday." Deep hor…
If I may propose something out-of-the-box here, it would be this. Maybe we should throw the distinction between “failure” and “success” out of the window. Maybe the distinction obfuscates more than it illuminates. Maybe it produces more heat than light and more fire than warmth (of course for practical reasons we can’t, but humor me please). 

For me, a successful man is only as successful as someone who bears in mind how fleeting success can be and how invaluable failure once were. And in an equally twisted logic, a man who fails is only as “successful” as someone who bears in mind how delusionary success will be and how character-defining failure actually is. And he holds them in blissful balance in perpetuity - never to ever lose sight of them. Possible? Alas, in the end, I think the paradoxes of success and failure will forever elude us because I see them as the opposite sides of a spinning coin showing us both faces almost at the same time but never settling for either until the coin stops spinning and a life stops breathing.

As I end, I find this quote aptly expresses how I feel about this spinning enigma: "Life is too ironic to be fully understood. It takes sadness to know what happiness 
is. It takes noise to appreciate silence. And it takes absence to value presence." And if I may add, it takes sorrow to create a deeply abiding appreciation of joy. The challenge to this life is this. Do we recognize, accept and embrace the irony, that is, "it takes failure to achieve success and success to fall into failure and the wheels of the bus…?" If we do, then we should look forward to the jolly marriage of failure and success and raise a toast to them for making our life better, richer and fuller; and never worse. Cheerz.

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