Failure Happens - Reasons Why it isn't a Bad Thing


I recently read a blog post over on Appalachian Trials, a site I regularly write for, where someone has come to the decision to end their thru hike attempt.  The failure of this hike weighs heavy on her and she ponders the question if she is a failure also.  There are comments and support pouring in for this hiker about how the hike isn't a failure, etc.  My opinion is different though, and it might seem rude: Yes, she failed.  No questions about it, she set a goal, tried, and failed.  But let's talk about this because failure isn't a bad thing.  Yeah, I said it - it's NOT bad.  Let's break it down. 

Failure is defined by as "an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success."  By all accounts, when you attempt something and you don't do it, you have failed.  The very definition of the word implies this. However, there are seven definitions of the word "failure" on and not a single one of those definitions makes failure into a bad thing. As a society living in the age of technology and instant gratification though, we see success as being good and failure being bad.  In a time when we are constantly barraged with people's good moments and successes on social media, failures are not often highlighted or even noticed anymore. 

Failure can be a good, if not great, thing!  Failure means you tried and probably that you tried something HUGE.  If history tells us anything, many influential and inspiring people didn't become that way on their first attempt at anything.  Henry Ford attempted several car companies before Ford took off; Colonel Sanders was rejected MORE THAN ONE THOUSAND times by restaurants when trying to sell his chicken recipe; Walt Disney was fired from a job for lacking imagination; Abraham Lincoln ran for public office and lost multiple times before becoming President of the United States; Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime; I could go on and on about people who are considered triumphal now who failed time and time again!

Let's look at an example from my life recently - thru hiking the Finger Lakes Trail.  We wanted to do this trail over the course of five weeks in the middle of the humid New York summertime.  Then it rained.  Then I got sick.  It never stopped raining and all we were doing was walking highways in the rain.  We decided to postpone this hike until after we do the Long Trail, meaning we are no longer considered thru hikers.  While we will still become end-to-enders on this long distance trail, we will not be thru hikers.  We failed at thru hiking.  We didn't fail at anything but the title.  We failed at our goal, but are not failures as people.  We will have a new goal we can achieve and this is okay.  It doesn't make our attempt any less important to anyone but ourselves.  

So, if you're one of the many people out there who have failed at a goal - congratulations! You are doing something not a lot of people do anymore, and that's attempting something big.  There is a quote that is popular in fitness circles: "If your goal doesn't scare you, you aren't dreaming big enough" and that, I believe, is fitting to this blog post.  Failure means you're dreaming big and aiming high.  It means your sense of adventure, in whatever manner you chose, is still active.  It means you can try and try and try, fall down a bunch, and keep getting up.  Failure means you're being resilient.  Failure means you're human.  Now, quit feeling sorry for yourself and give it another shot!