The Elegance of Failure is a guest post from Neal Frankle at Wealth Pilgrim. Neal is a dedicated father, insightful financial adviser, and honorable Yakezie Challenger who always writes with a breath of fresh air You can join his 2,500+ followers on Twitter @NealFrankle. Enjoy!
Failure is not only a necessary part of life, it can be a beautiful part of life.
This may sound like crazy talk.
After all, if you are a hardworking person, you work hard because you want to succeed, not fail.
And failure stings.
That pain is real….but despite that temporary pain, those set backs are likely key ingredients to your future success. And the success I’m talking about dwarfs financial or career gains.
Let me explain by telling you about an experience I had several years ago.
BACK IN THE MOTHERLAND
When I was in my 20’s, I started a Masters program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. My goal was to study in Hebrew with the local students and complete the degree.
This isn’t such a lofty goal in and of itself, but when you consider that I didn’t speak a word of Hebrew 9 months prior to my enrollment, I think you’ll agree that it was quite a challenge – if not insane.
I studied as hard as I could. I worked night and day using every opportunity I could to improve my language skills.
Sure enough my hard work paid off – sort of.
Within 9 months I passed the entrance exam and was admitted to the Hebrew University’s Masters Program for Political Science. My language level tested out as fluent.
And that’s when my problems started.
While my conversational ability was pretty good, I couldn’t understand a word my professors were saying from day 1. I mean not one meshugunah word.
I doubled my studying and put everything I had into it… but it was no use. I didn’t have the skill or ability to learn as quickly as I was required to.
Within 3 weeks, I dropped out and returned to America.
I felt like a complete failure.
It took me years to let go of that experience.
IN AMERICA WHERE MY BUSINESS GROWS
When I came back, I focused all my energy on starting a business and this time, the universe said “YES”. I was fortunate enough to build a very successful business from ground up.
You could say that the door had to close on my Hebrew Political Science dreams in order for the door to open for my business aspirations.
That’s true of course. But had I just stopped there I would have missed a gift far more valuable.
You see, I felt like a loser when I didn’t make it in Israel because I confused having limited skills (in this case, language skills) with being defective myself. Then I felt like a winner as my business grew.
My emotional peace of mind was completely tied and dependent upon my success or failure.
For me, that’ s no way to live.
The elegance is seeing that your success or failure in an endeavor, doesn’t say anything about you as a person. I have limited skills – we all do. So what?
It doesn’t mean you are flawed as a person.
You can apply this lesson if you have financial stress, problems in your career or trouble at home.
If something doesn’t work out, it’s just the universe’s way of telling you to try something different. It’s not a statement about my value as a human being.
There’s a lot of freedom in that. At least I believe there is.
Understanding this makes it easier for me to be objective about how I spend my time. I have less invested in the outcome. All I have to do is my best and let the result go. And if I do my best, what more can I do? In fact, if I have done my best, what right do I have the right to beat myself up?
Please don’t get me wrong. I still believe it’s important to do the best I can. Put everything I have into it. But when things don’t work out, I don’t want to repeat the mistake I made all those years ago. I hope you feel the same way.
Don’t let your outcomes define you. It’s unhelpful and it’s untrue. Failure is elegant because it provides a lesson in self that no other classroom or experience provides. It allows us to value ourselves separate and apart from what we can and can’t do.
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