The idea of success is ingrained within us since birth. Why not? We like success stories, even if they incite envy within us. We like setting goals in order to be better than what we already are. Above all, we like how success makes us feel, especially the relief and the newfound confidence that makes all the hard work worthwhile.
However, let's not forget that failure is the pillar of success. You don't have to hear the stories of Oprah Winfrey or J. K. Rowling to know that behind every success, there are many failed attempts. Your life experiences are full of such stories. Perhaps your parents often share the anecdote of how many times you fell before you could take your first steps as a toddler, all by yourself. Maybe you remember the teacher who would always try to bring you down by asserting that you'd never pass their subject, only to prove them wrong by getting the highest marks. This very article will go through several rejected drafts before it sees the light of day in print.
The point is, there is no success without failure.
If you weigh your successes against your failures, the scales would tip heavily in terms of the latter. Thus, it is obvious that stories of failure are more common. Yet, how many stories do we hear about restarts, botched attempts, aborted missions or broken dreams? We do, but often in whispers when the afflicted person isn't around, accompanied by either pitiful sighs or smug grins. The shame attached to these stories are somewhat shed if the failures are punctuated by successes. Would any of us care if J. K. Rowling had never reached the level of success she has now? Most probably not.
Living in a success-oriented world means that failure is relegated to a taboo topic, unless it can be justified with a form of success that outshines it. Our society expects us to be successful, to overcome often formidable hurdles. We are expected to be on good terms with everyone, get good grades, get a good job that pays well, get married and start a family – the list goes on. Our society also expects us to be proud of our successes, because we love hearing about them.
Just take a look at your social media feeds. You will see people announcing whatever good things happen in their lives, whether it's a new job, an engagement, or simply a nice painting. It gives the impression that everyone is living well and happily. Most importantly, our society wants us to work hard to taste that sweet fruit. There's nothing wrong with that; success without perseverance and hard work is like trying to turn back time.
However, there's another component that is crucial to success that we don't talk about enough: luck.
As we all know, the year 2020 has turned all our expectations and plans upside down and inside out, and the crisis does not seem to be resolved soon. The well-performing employee who was hoping to get promoted lost their job. The couple who were planning to get married saw their relationship fall apart. The HSC candidate, who would've been busy with university admissions right now, waited for months to know if their exams would be cancelled. I myself was planning to go abroad for higher studies. All of these cases were struck by dumb luck.
Sometimes, even though you might put all your effort into achieving something, luck turns its favours away. Sometimes, the situation and the circumstances are out of your control. None of us imagined that a virus, invisible to the naked eye, would make us taste the bitterness of failure. But luck played a trick and that's what happened.
It sucks, but should you beat yourself up over your failures last year? No, because it's not your fault.
Does that mean all your hard work was for nothing? No, because what matters is that you tried your best.
Among the many things last year has taught us is the value of failure. Although we try to hide our sob stories without happy endings and avoid sharing them on our timelines, we often forget that failure teaches us way more than success does. After all, we learn the best from our mistakes, the botched attempts that urge us to restart and inch towards a successful one.
When luck runs out though, some failures can't be remedied easily. In most cases, failure teaches us how to improve ourselves. In the case of 2020, our myriad failures taught us more by putting things into perspective, taking stock of how valuable the things we take for granted are. Maybe our failures against these unique circumstances redefined what success is. It need not always mean the desire for material things like wealth or status. It can also lie in the little things, like rediscovering a passion, spending more time with one's family, or anything that can offer some fulfilment, even if it's for a few moments. It may even mean the simple truth of being alive day after day, against all odds. These little things may not mean much compared to your grand schemes, but they do.
After experiencing failure, our instinct urges us to bounce back as soon as possible and march onward. It's what the world is desperately trying to do with the pandemic and the subsequent recession. Yet, 2020 has been a lot for all of us. The burden of all these failures is bound to make anyone emotionally fatigued, and bouncing back needs sufficient willpower. No matter what everyone tells you, it's okay to take your time to process all this. It's okay to take a break to learn all the lessons life has thrown at you last year.
When you're ready, perhaps you'll be kinder to your botched attempts for the knowledge they've given you, because failure is good.
Adhora Ahmed tries to make her two cats befriend each other, but in vain. Tell her to give up at email@example.com