[Sorry this one was late, people!  Yesterday got busy and I plum forgot.  Thanks to my amazing friend Tony for the post!]

Last week I was listening to Brad Paisley’s “If I Could Write a Letter to Me.” So, of course, I felt that urge to write a letter to my former self. It’s been almost nine years since I was seventeen, and I wished I could have told myself one amazing truth: Don’t fear failure.

We’ve grown up with the stigma that failure means we’ve done something wrong, that we couldn’t do it, and that we shouldn’t have tried in the first place. We believe Yoda set the boundaries when he said, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” So we don’t try for fear of falling in the ‘do not’ side of life. But what some people have recognized is that in attempting to do something, whether it’s writing a New York Times bestseller, making a loaf of bread, or designing a new invention, there’s only one bad result: Stop trying. That’s the point where we draw a line and say “That’s as far as I can go” when it isn’t the case. And each time we reach that line again, we look at it and tell ourselves that’s our limit, we can’t go further, even if we could.

Who are the people who have recognized this truth? It’s usually the people who have succeeded in their field, people who have led full lives, and people who have the coolest stories to tell about something they did.

Conan O’Brien, in the commencement address to the Dartmouth class of 2009, reiterated that life’s going to be unexpected and our job is to gleam as much good as we can from whatever we’re doing. He mentioned the long list of jobs he’s tried before being given a chance to get into comedy (It was an impressive list). Then, after almost twenty minutes of jokes, he buckled down and gave five minutes I wish my young, stupid self could have heard: “Don’t be afraid of failure. It’s going to happen, but that means you learned something.”

The other great example of learning to love failure is Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. They run the show Mythbusters, and frequently use the adage “Failure is always an option.” With over twelve seasons under their belt, there have been some spectacular failures. If failure was that big an issue, and something worth avoiding so much, you’d think the show would have been off the air sooner. But instead, it’s become wildly popular.

If we could only do what we succeeded at, then we’d become a nation excellently proficient at eating and wasting time on Facebook. We couldn’t even play video games (gamers, you know what I’m talking about. Remember that one level that everyone spends at least two hours on before they manage to get past it?).

So, former self, try it. Pick up a violin, play a sport, play a game, learn to crochet, knit, cook, weld, build, write, and talk to someone new. Failure’s going to sting at first, but it’s only because you’re not used to it. You’ll get used to it, I promise. Once you’re familiar with what failure’s like, you’ll be able to learn so much more from it. All the cool things you’ve done are built on a strong foundation of screw-ups, attempts, and falling flat on your face. But it’s worth it. It’ll always be worth it.

Advertisements