Living Beyond the Detours

In 2015, I am hoping to embrace failure. This is the path to finding my true calling, or so innumerable self-help articles proclaim.

I’ve tried to feel good about failure. I’ve talked it up to friends and family members when looking for a positive spin in an unintended, and unwelcome, situation. But unless you’re Richard Branson, or some other successful visionary innovator with plenty of successes already in line, we find it hard to get jazzed about failure.

I don’t like the word. I’d like to retire it. When Oprah interviewed Justin Timberlake for her Master Class series, he chose not to use the word. But I can’t exactly come up with a word that fits for me, only that comes close. A word along the lines of redirect. A word that means new beginning. Failure seen merely as a road sign—road closed; find another route.

I don’t mind getting help with road directions.

You’re trying to get to the oyster hatchery? WHOA! Are you going the wrong way! You needed to take that right on Turnbuckle Road about half an hour ago, right after you got on Route 9000. Now that you’re here, though, you need to…

Directions noted, with appreciation, I can step on the gas and follow the new track.

But missed turns and helpful direction aren’t so clear, or welcome, once the subject is something other than streets and mileage…

Why now? In 2015, for the failure thing? Because I’m increasingly aware of how easily protection mode takes over, how we tend to keep on the roads we’ve traveled, and more or less figured out. We’ve worked hard, raised our children, have something put away for retirement—we made it this far; we’re okay. Safe-ish. Almost secure. Now what. Keep holding on with all our might? No risks? Avoid challenges? Stay away from anything that’s not a sure bet? Okay. Is life basically over then? Just coast now to the finish line? I’m observing myself, and family and friends at my general stage in life in grand protection mode. Try that? Really? What if we fail? We don’t want to fail. We’ve worked too hard to not be failures. And we haven’t liked it when we have failed. We feel – less than.

And so, we encourage our own atrophy.

Can we break that cycle? Can we change our perspective? What if we are okay with failure? With something not going the way we’d planned? We’d hoped? Then can we try something we’ve never tried before, even if we’re not sure we’ll be good at it? We could…go after that job we really want. Go back to school. Change careers. Be that artist. Tackle that project. Start that business. Be that innovator. Follow our path. Hit a detour. Go around it. Live. Right?

So 2015, here’s to embracing failure. And living beyond the detour sign…