Sunday, September 7, 2014

Life and Risk

This summer I began to work on a number of activities outside my comfort zone.  The very first thing I learned was that I was completely unprepared for failure.  What was even more unnerving was that I thought I was ready for it.

The problem was that I expected failure to be an endpoint.  I knew that I might spend months creating a new product and then experience failure because nobody would buy it.  I knew that I might create content that no one would read.  And I knew that I might exercise daily and yet still not achieve my fitness goals.  I was prepared for failure as an event.

What I didn't expect was that failure would become a daily experience.  On some days, it was nearly an hourly experience.  If anything could possibly go wrong, it did.  There is also a cumulative effect to these sorts of things that can wear on you.  You work so hard to bounce back from one issue, only to fall on your face again the next day.

There were many days where I wanted to just shelve everything and be content with my cubicle life.  I felt a lot of frustration and disappointment.  At times, I even felt weary and exhausted.  But about halfway through the summer, I began to experience a new and unexpected emotion.

I felt alive.

It is hard to explain.  The failures were still painful, but in some almost mystical way, they also brought me joy.  It took me a while to figure this out.  I wasn't happy to fail, but I was happy to risk something, even if it meant failure.  Trying and failing is better than the status quo - not marginally better, but many orders of magnitude better.  That is my big lesson from this summer.