August 1, 2014

Failure: it’s not what you think! ~ Karina Guthrie


This one’s for anyone who dreamed big but satisfied themselves with less.

Sometimes I don’t even realize how invested I am in my tribe, how much I gauge my decisions, my actions and the quality of my thoughts by how they are received by others.

I consider myself to be independent, decisive even, but recently I noticed how frequently this is tempered by an underlying concern for endorsement by others. We all do it. We float our ideas to gauge the reactions of those we care about.

We measure our progress and the quality of our trajectory by the level of enthusiasm others have for our path. Of course this doesn’t mean that a single disagreement will turn into a permanent roadblock, but perhaps it means that bit-by-bit our wildest dreams are modified to make them more palatable for the masses.

Heartbreaking, really.

As kids we had big ideas. We wanted to be astronauts/explorers/property developers/best selling authors/trapeze artists or some other wonderful thing that, when expressed to our loved ones, was reflected back with the ol’ “be realistic” chestnut.

What mum/dad/family/friends were trying to protect us from was the sting of disappointment. What we internalized, however, was not the warmth of protection but the cool wind of self-doubt. Why don’t they think I’m good enough? What separates me from the fabulous few who make it?

Instead of taking a running leap toward an adventure filled with great joy, bitter disappointment and the full spectrum of human experience we took a tentative step down the middle road, satisfied with middle ground experiences and middle ground emotions and a preference for regret over the possibility of failure.

What is failure?

When did it become associated with being less than? Failure, after all, is just a signal that we’re experimenting with new things, courting challenge, taking steps forward without the knowledge of where they’ll lead.

Isn’t that kind of exciting?

A person who has never failed has never tried. So why not flirt with failure, press up against its edge a little bit? Failure is just the outcome of an experiment with a particular course of action. It is not a reflection of you, your worth, your potential or your character (nor is it a reflection of mine).

None of us have all the answers all of the time. None of us always get it right. Since when did “right” become the measure of all things anyway? Why not get a little messy? It’s the windy roads that are most exciting. Let’s lose ourselves in the joy of experimentation.

A caveat. I’m not endorsing recklessness, so no striding into work tomorrow, quitting that job, selling that house and announcing plans to join the circus! It’s important to learn a few circus skills before throwing it all in.

A realized dream is one that is wed to action.

What skills do you need that you don’t yet have?

How might they be acquired?

When you figure out what you need to do, go do it. Put one foot in front of the other and be prepared to do the unglamorous.

Get closer to that shining audacious idea of what life can be. Open a space for your dreams. They’ve been waiting in the shadows your whole life.

Go realize them. Or nearly realize them.

The most we ever get is what we ask for so we might as well ask for a lot. Even getting some of the way there is a step closer to that expansive life we each dream of. Go to it!


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!


Editor: Travis May

Photo: Jesse Peters/Pixoto



Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Karina Guthrie