Monday, August 24, 2015

Tenacity, Superpowers and Failure

It's difficult to admit to our failures.

Of course we can always force a smile, and triumphantly parrot Thomas Edison, who once famously said: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work"… which truly is a wonderful way of looking at the learning and doing process in general, but when one has set forth a specific set of goals, (goals which are steeped in our most treasured dreams and laced with an unbridled yearning that stems from the deepest recesses of our soul), and one has failed to meet those goals, then such clever exposition will only serve as a verbal Band-Aid, effectively masking, but never actually healing the wounds that remain.

I'm terrible at accepting failure. I stubbornly refuse to veer off of what I believe to be the right path, often pulling out my proverbial machete and hacking my way deeper and deeper into the dark and forbidding jungle of denial, just for the sake of moving forward.

Whether it be a business venture, a personal project, or a special relationship, I tirelessly, and senselessly forge forward, like a faithful and impeccably trained dogsled team, fearing nothing that lies between me and my goal, but the bitter sting of failure itself.

I never give up.

That's not to say that I don't take the occasional extended detour and park my trusty sled in a cool, dark cave, and hibernate from time to time, shutting out the rest of the world like some crotchety, old hermit.

I suppose that's my way of dealing with failure or disappointment (either mine or that of another person involved)… I disappear… which leads me to my next admission… okay, before I toss this concept out there; please don't take any of what follows as either boasting or self-depreciation, I don't intend this to serve either purpose, just a means to facilitate a dialog… to instigate some thoughts… to further bare my soul.

A co-worker asked me recently, as we all have been asked at one time or another, "If you could have just one ability - one ‘superpower’, what would it be?" So I'll lead off by saying that I'm strong, both physically and in terms of raw willpower, so strength has never been a specific wish of mine, we typically wish for a power that would counter something that we view in ourselves as a weakness, or a limitation, whether it be physical or emotional.

Based upon my propensity to disappear as a typical response to failure or disappointment, or the shadowy perception of either; my default superpower of choice would likely be flight, or perhaps invisibility.

I thrive on privacy, yet here I am exposing my life - my desires, my dreams, and my fears for all the world to see in my blog, I suppose it's largely cathartic, but still inviting a clear and blatant invasion of my own admittedly coveted privacy… we are all a bit of a dichotomy, aren't we?

We all seek approval in our own way… we long for validation, we crave relevance. We desperately strive to be individuals, and want to believe that we are wholly unique and special, yet we also want to believe that we share in some universal link to humanity itself. None of us wants to be an island in a vast sea of souls, though most of us wouldn't mind owning an island... ah, the ever-present dichotomy... but I digress.

Our hearts, our minds and our souls travel around in this vehicle that we call a body. C.S. Lewis once said: “We do not have a soul - We are a soul, we have a body.” We share experiences with other people in one of two ways, as an active participant, or as a passive observer. We are mostly powerless to decide which of the two types of experiences we have, as we are forever bound by the unbreakable laws of physics. But occasionally we are granted the power of choice in this matter... which do you choose? Participant or observer? Do you allow the fear of failure, or worse yet, the fear of change, or human exposure to coerce you into a perpetual observational status?

I will never profess to having all the right answers... or any of the right answers for that matter... I'm the guy who disappears into my Fortress of Solitude when things go awry. I'm one of many individuals who would do well on a private island, alone with my thoughts and dreams, and a select few treasured and kindred spirits and loved ones (starting with my kids).

For all of my lofty ideas and good intentions, I do occasionally make choices which I regret, and as I previously shared, when the guano hits the fan (or when life itself becomes all too overwhelming), I sometimes return to the Batcave to sort through my thoughts, plan out my next moves, and carefully contemplate my oh-so important next words.

But from time to time I fall into the precarious trap of over-contemplation - of waiting too long to act or speak, simply because I'm not sure of what to do or say, and so I say and do nothing. When I finally step up and take action, there are usually more than a few confused individuals, scratching their collective heads, and sometimes even shaking them. I’ve done it with people, pulling on my handy cloak of invisibility and fading utterly and completely from sight, and of course I’ve done it with situations… It’s a nasty pattern of mine that I’m just becoming cognizant of, and writing these blogs, however difficult putting my soul on display for the whole world to pick apart might be, it’s also extremely revealing… not just to you, but to me as well - know thine own self first.

I, like you and everyone else out there, am a work in progress… I’m pretty well fearless under most physical circumstances, I boldly rush into danger without much consideration for my own safety, but emotionally, I struggle… I struggle because there is nothing in this big-bad world that will ensure that my darkest fear will never come to pass… because my darkest fear, aside from being unwanted, unloved or irrelevant, is failing my loved ones.

It’s likely that I’ll never get past that one, because I already have a baseline from which my fears can operate. I’ve failed at love, I’ve failed at business, I’ve failed financially, and I’ve failed when it has come to judging people and anticipating their ulterior motives. But disappointing my loved ones… that’s the worst of the entire bunch.

Thankfully for me, my loved ones are relatively forgiving of my failures. They understand that when all is said and done, I'm only human; I sometimes need my privacy to recharge, and I occasionally engage my faithful (but fictional) cloaking device, going as silent as the former U.S.S.R. after the cold-war - but on the flip side; I never give up, I never stop trying, and though I might fail miserably, my loved ones can always count on me to faithfully rise to the occasion when they really need me.

Yes, it's difficult to admit to our failures, but if we always strive to learn and move forward without compromise, then perhaps failure doesn't have to be how things end, perhaps failure is just another word for opportunity...

Hmmmm, maybe Edison’s words will serve me best after all.