Failure as Friend.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jul 22, 2012
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Just as the lotus rises out of mud, so too are our failures the very fertilizer for our realized beauty.

Nearly four years ago, I put my (successful) business out of business. And I spent the next four years rebuilding. I lost just about everything—and the fact that my wound was largely self-inflicted did not make those lean, stressful times any less lean or stressful. Then, as elephant was reborn from magazine into a moderately successful web site, I had (by far) the worst relationship of my life. I’ve spent most of the ensuing 1.5 years alone, lonely, beaten, stressed, and on some level, depressed.

But through it all I’ve followed a thread: my path is my joy. My vocation is my avocation, as Robert Frost said (I think). My criteria for how I spend my short life on this sweet, terrible planet is this:

1) I do what I’m good at

2) I do what I’m good at that I also love doing

3) I do what I’m good at that I love doing that happens to be of some small benefit to others.

My failure has defined my story, and make me deeper and stronger, unbeatable, even: for now fear of failure is something I’m intimate with.

For it is only in gaining knowledge of and comfort with our fear, that we become fearless.

(and, funny, as you’ll see below)

~ ed.


Please do not be cynical.

Amazing Things Will Happen: a review of the Tao of Coco.

Your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention.

But then something spectacular happened: fog bound, with no compass and adrift, I started trying things. I did a lot of silly, unconventional, spontaneous and seemingly irrational things. It was the most satisfying and fascinating year of my professional life. To this day, I still don’t understand exactly what happened. But I have never had more fun, been more challenged—and this is important—had more conviction in what I was doing.

How could this be true? Well, it’s simple: there are few things more liberating in life than having your worst fear realized.

It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy: but if you accept your misfortune and accept it right your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention.

In 2000, I told graduates to not be afraid to fail and I still believe that but today I tell you that if you fear it or not disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.

Whatever you think your dream is now, that will change: and that’s okay.

I pulled the above quotes from this:


Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen:

Long may you run.



About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


12 Responses to “Failure as Friend.”

  1. j-monster says:

    Reminds me of my two favorite quotes:
    1. Success is not final and failure isn't fatal – Winston Churchill
    2. It's only when you've lost everything that you can do anything – Fight Club

    These have helped me though times like you described.

  2. papa_tom says:


    As I'm navigating my own recently failed relationship and feeling woefully single amongst all these articles about great sex and divine connections, it's nice to see something that speaks to me where I am now, reminding me that this is an opportunity to grasp; a chance to grow and realize an entirely new way of being. The idea of failure is an illusion best shattered, and from the shards one can find the means to learn and begin anew.

    blessed be…

  3. Suresh Nair says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing this. Great post on a very sensitive, easy-to-misunderstand topic.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    Yah: there's a reason the Buddha started teaching about suffering, instead of enlightenment. We start where we are, face the music, and then proceed genuinely:

  5. HI Waylon:

    Loved this simple list and would add a number four:

    "1) I do what I’m good at

    2) I do what I’m good at that I also love doing

    3) I do what I’m good at that I love doing that happens to be of some small benefit to others.

    4) When I start hating what I used to love doing, I recognize it's time to find a new love of doing.

    (at least, that has been my learning, two careers, going on three later!)

  6. jhepstein says:

    Love it Waylon.

    I love how you capture the essence of fearlessness both in definition, and by sharing your own "failures". Thanks man.

  7. valerie says:

    There is something most fabulous in dropping the curtain. Silly and real and undeniably liberating. Fantastic article. Mucho gracias.

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