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Avoiding the Possibility of Failure — Will It Ensure Me an Unhappy Life?



It’s been the route of most evil in the human condition.






Addictions of any kind that take us away from the reality of our lives we are trying to avoid at any cost because suffering through failure in our attempts to better those lives is an emotional risk we fear we cannot bear. It’s as simple as that.
We will delay, make excuses, feign ignorance, and be busy with everyone and everything else but what really demands our attention. Worthy goals require certain degrees of stress to achieve. 
There is no quick fix to living your best life. 
We see the positives in achieving those worthy goals, but cannot make ourselves voluntarily go through the pain and angst that we know will come in the effort to achieve.

Fear of change. Fear of risk. Fear of abject failure. It’s what will force one person to live a sub-par life in avoidance of failure, and another who will accept and embrace those wholly uncomfortable feelings for the chance to live life to its fullest.

I’m not exactly sure when the transition happened for myself…

Like every young human on the block, I, too, thought achieving happiness, at any cost, was the meaning of a life well lived. I fell for the myth that the person at the end of their life with the most toys wins. The goal was to avoid hardship, downturns, and failure, by any means. The best life was a life where you remained steadfast to the status-quo and not take risks to up your quality of life. After all, that’s what my WWII parents did, and it worked okay for them, right? Not really. It turned out for them and me that to tread upon that predicted, uber-safe path results in less fulfillment, less contentment, and a litany of regrets. At least I learned this lesson quicker than my parents did, but not in the predicted way.

It was only when a health scare forced me to retire early from a career I had studied, worked so hard for all my young life, that I sat back and altered my definition of happiness, what my life would look like being truly happy — what I truly needed, and wanted, out of the life I was given, not the life I had dreamed. And that required facing reality and accepting risk. One hell of a lot of both.

Did I end up failing to achieve goals along the way? Heck, yes.

Did those failures stop me? They slowed me down, sure, but stop me? Never.

With each failure, I sat back again, re-evaluated my path to my goals, analyzes my strengths and weaknesses, upped my skills to tackle those weaknesses, and got back up on that figurative horse, and try, try again.

I knew all along I was playing with risk.

I knew I was courting the possibility of failure, many failures, in fact.

But I was more afraid of my life not fully lived than my life courting failure.

Does a surfer head out into the sea assured that they will successfully catch every wave, balance perfectly through every tube, and come out the other end as the water conqueror they dreamed? Not even close.

A surfer plays with risk every single time. They are fit. They are skilled. They hold the right board for the right conditions. It’s them versus the waves. It’s their mettle versus Mother Nature, knowing that Mother N holds the House odds.

If that surfer goes out twenty times, and the first 19, they fall. Won't the successful 20th attempt be that much sweeter for all those falls?

The above realization always has my mind wandering back to August 9, 1974, the day when President Nixon gave his farewell speech in the East Room to his staff before he left the White House for good, a failed President…

The greatness comes not when things go always good for you. But the greatness comes when you’re really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes. Because only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”

Dick Nixon learned the lesson too late. The way I see life is, you're winning if you're not slow, like Dick.

Accept that living is to take risks. Measured risks. Ones where you've nurtured your talents, developed your skills and know-how to strive for a better life. Whether you’re a writer or a plumber or an accountant, we all have the same ability to Plan, Prepare, Practice and Perfect, embracing the Possibility of Failure along the way to Success and that elusive Happiness. Risk and Failure are the savory flavors that end up making the dish. Without them, you are doomed to a life eating pablum.

For me, lately, deadlines have been missed, and goals that were set, not made, because:

  1. I caught a severe case of Covid. It took me several weeks to return to normal functioning.
  2. One of my cats became injured and had to have special treatment.
  3. There was a sudden residential refinancing.
Every one of these events caught me off guard. They weren’t planned for or anticipated. All sapped my time and energy and stole my ability to focus on my literary pursuits. You could call my latest adventure a Triad of Failure. But,
  1. My health fully returned.
  2. My cat is well on the mend.
  3. And my housing issue has been handed off to professionals and diarized for the future steps still to be taken.
And I’m back on the figurative horse, or surfing my long board, and trying yet again, completing one task after another, focusing on each step, not obsessing about the overwhelming by the Big Picture, on my slow but sure-footed way to reach those risk-laden goals.

The Key for me — to live a life fraught with risk with the possibility of greatness is a life I am willing to live over one free of all risk, merely existing, not thriving, in the safe status-quo.

Will the unexpected show its ugly face again? You betcha.

Will certain deadlines be missed? Attempts fail? Sadly, yes.

Regardless, will I recover, re-evaluate, and try again? You can be certain.

And maybe on my 20th attempt, there will be that opportunity for reward. And I will savor it.

Without risk, there is no opportunity for me at all. And therein lies the assurance of an Unhappy Life.

These days and for decades now, I lean into risk. I still don’t like it. Many tears are still shed, or sleepless nights suffered when failure comes about, but the difference is that I’m willing to experience those negative emotions to better savor the positive ones. And with each set back, I cry less; I sleep more, and I realize when all is said and done, I will be okay.

I will be okay because I am living my best life right now, embracing the possibility of failure for the glory in the achievement of success. That thought alone makes me happy today.