The Mechanics of Failure

How much of our lifetimes do we spend failing?

I think it’s probably quite a considerable sum – at least from my perspective. But let’s try to define ‘failure’. How? Here are a couple of the Oxford definitions:

  1. ‘Lack of success’.

2. ‘The action or state of not functioning’.

Neither of these is indisputable, when you look at the terminology. To ask what ‘failure’ meansand to be answered with the word success, only stretches out our problem. Success, as we all know, is a fluid thing.

Personally, I prefer the second statement. To function, in my mind, gives more clarity to the idea of success. To function is to carry on moving. If a car, as soon as one of its parts failed, refused altogether to move one more inch, car mechanics would hold a far more esteemed position in our phone-books. Cars carry on, because they need to. Like cars, bikes and central heating, we spend a lot of our time with at least one part ‘failing’.

Perhaps we should take a leaf from our mechanical counterparts. If we crumple at every failure, we’ll end up spending that considerable sum of our lives in the repair shop, rather than sputtering – and sometimes even sailing – on, despite our technical faults. We need to trust we can make it, confront our blips not always with a scalding eye, but with the softened, knowing gaze of someone who knows that somehow, someway, they’ll pass the M.O.T.

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Growing Pains

Adjusting to adulthood is a strange experience. Being a 20-something year-old, you’ve not been able to commit to much, which can be a real freedom, but for many it’s simply a licence to worry. At the same time, though, you realistically don’t have enough life experience to commit totally to a set path. Many are left floating, like a piece of space debris, occasionally knocking themselves against an unpleasantly hard lump of rock.

These lumps can be a real headache. They’re relationships, rejections, friendships, mistakes, failures and successes – a lot to handle. How do those of us who actively avoid not knowing where we’ll be next year, or push so frantically against disappointments, manage to dodge the most profound knocks? Well, we don’t.

We can’t stop the rug from being pulled from under our feet. All we can do is hold our breath and clutch as many of our belongings – our loves, our desires, the qualities we’re most proud of – as possible.

Hold on tight; let’s see how much of us makes it through.