I have left a string of failures behind me in my life as I pursue my dreams, as well as, of course, many successes.
Some were colossal, or felt that way at the time. They include:
- Crash-and-burn relationships, including one in particular in which I acted all of 12 as I alternately pouted, begged, praised and cursed the man who was leaving me. I was madly in love. When he decided he was done with me, I fell apart completely. I was 35 and emotionally right back in junior high.
- A first attempt at applying for grad school years ago, in which I got rejected by not one, not two, but five universities. Ouch! (Up to that point in my life I was so accustomed to academic success that it seemed inconceivable to get a “no” from one, let alone all of the schools where I applied).
- Numerous jobs I’ve applied for and not gotten.
- Popular magazines that rejected my query letters, when I’d decided I wanted to write for Redbook or “O.”
- Men I’ve wanted to date who didn’t want me.
- There was also, along the way, a failed marriage. We’ll just call it my “starter marriage.”
- And, of course, the three months of my life, at age 24, when I didn’t want to live at all. When I tried to take my own life. (There is a much longer story behind all of this that has to do with the years of trauma that preceded this depression. But I’ll save that for another time).
As I write in my poem, Ring the bells that still can ring, surviving a suicide attempt was:
…my greatest/failure, the one I am most grateful for.
Somehow just surviving made all other forms of failure pale in comparison, and made risk-taking easier.
Because — here’s the thing.
No matter how many times I try and “fail,” it is a chance to learn and grow. It may lead to the next great thing. And, there’s always another to chance to give it another shot — because I am ALIVE! I love what Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has to say about failure: “First, allow me to confess that I have failed at 90 percent of the things I have ever attempted.”
“Failure rarely bothers me,” he adds. “I always learn something in the process, and the screw ups provide a nice backdrop of humility for the few times when things work out.”
What an awesome attitude. What if our “failures” were celebrated, fun even? “Ah, that didn’t work, let’s try again!” In the end, life really is a grand experiment. If you are not “failing” at all, maybe you are not trying enough new things, or taking enough risks! Ask any wildly successful person – “failures” are just a part of the journey to success. It is just a matter of using failure to your advantage. As you encounter failures and set backs, you learn what works and what does not.
Embrace your failures and use them as stepping stones on the path towards your greatest dreams.
(Lisa has launched her dream by signing up for Ellen Sussman’s “Memoir-in-a-Year” class, speaking her story out loud at a Take Back the Night rally, and committing to a regular writing schedule — 50 pages due by December! Being invited to join 8womendream.com was a dream come true, and she looks forward to chronicling her writing process. LisaÂ is currently bi-coastal with her home in historic Troy, New York and her heart in San Francisco. Lisa’s post day is Tuesday).