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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