How Failure Can Be Awesome

I was talking to a friend the other day about the kind of work I used to do. A few years ago, after being laid off and then having a pretty unsuccessful, frustrating run at going freelance, I’d felt like a total failure.

Thinking about it now, I’m surprising grateful for the way things turned out. I no longer feel like I failed exactly but that I was going down the wrong road and trying to force an outcome that just wasn’t meant to be at the time.

I wasn’t even happy in my work anymore but was clinging strongly to the idea that not only “should” I be working full time but I “should” also be succeeding no matter what.

There are so many times I can think of when I have failed at something in my life.

From the small things like:

  • Not making cheer-leading my freshman year of high school
  • Never landing lead parts in the plays and musicals at school
  • Having a date from prom (so embarrassing I didn’t go at all)

To the more serious:

  • My first marriage ending in divorce
  • Not landing what I thought would be my dream design job
  • Being laid off, more than once, a few years ago when the economy tanked

For every one of these occurrences I saw as failures that I would beat myself up for, signs of how I was somehow less than, crushing blows to my ego and soul, I am now thankful.

I did not make the cheer squad but I ended up knowing and having friends from a wide variety of cliques with lots of different interests.

Because I would audition and not get parts, I took acting class with the director and aced it, working my butt off and impressing him with every monologue and assignment.

I learned that love is not always just about having fun and things being easy. It’s how you work, respect and treat each other when times are tough that make a relationship and marriage. You have to really know yourself and each other. And sometimes, being 22 is just too young.

  • Failure leads you in different directions and sometimes the right direction without you knowing it.
  • It teaches empathy and humility.
  • Failing can help you see that every time something doesn’t work out, the world doesn’t end.
  • It helps you see how many possibilities are out there.
  • And shows us we don’t know everything.

Being laid off and my career flopping was so hard at the time. It was like losing a part of my identity. I didn’t know who I was if I didn’t have a title and paycheck with a company name on it.

This forced me on a journey of discovery and acceptance of who I truly am and where I am today:

A stay at home mom, spending the time and having experiences with my son I could only dream about in my former, busy life. A happy wife in a wonderful relationship. The author of a blog and student of everything around me.

Looking back, I’m living today so much of what I’d hoped for earlier in life.

The road is curved and winding. It can be scary and a lot that happens to us does not make sense and definitely doesn’t seem like anything positive or good. Knowing that sometimes we are being pulled in the direction we need to go can relieve us of some of the struggle, fear and pain.

I don’t know if it’s ever easy but I think sometimes, our “failures” can be awesome. Even when it doesn’t seem so at the time.

8 thoughts on “How Failure Can Be Awesome

  1. Great post!
    I think we too often define ourselves by our mistakes, or failures….instead of defining ourselves by how we deal with, or overcome those things. That’s our true character. Sometimes, mistakes don’t say anthing at all about who you are……they’re just mistakes. And failure is as much a part of growing…..as success.
    Wonderful insight and positive vibe you have – love it!

    • You are so right, it’s much more about how we deal with or overcome things than having everything turn out just the way we would like. And sometimes, mistakes just happen that mean nothing. Great comments, thank you so much for reading Rory!

    • That’s how I feel as well, it can really sting at the time but those “failures” or flops sometimes turn out for the best as well as helping us grow. Thanks so much for reading Stacey!

  2. I am going to print this post out to show to my kids as the years go on (if they don’t listen to me, maybe someone else saying the same thing will have more of an impact).

    I couldn’t agree more. Our failures can be valuable tools in learning more about ourselves – how to improve, how to let things go, how to know the difference.

    I love this post Anna, so thoughtful and encouraging!

    • Thanks so much! I wish it hadn’t taken so long for me to figure this one out, it’s still hard to see at times but I can definitely look back and see how things that seemed so bad at the time were really for the end good :) I don’t know if I would have believed this as a kid but I love you saying you’re going to print it out – haha! Thanks so much for reading Carinn!

    • True as well, the tough stuff can really teach us to appreciate what we have and when we have it good :) Thanks so much for reading Alison!

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