Letter To A Friend Struggling With Failure

Letter To A Friend Struggling With Failure

About a year ago, I was at a healing retreat in New Mexico.  On each person’s last day, they had a tradition of burning artwork and writing that represented parts of you that you want to leave behind, and to give away (or take home) items that represent parts of you that you would like to flourish.  Most of the people I had spent the most time with and grown close to recently left the retreat.  So it was difficult for me to decide how to give things away to the people who had just arrived.  I noticed a lot of them talked about having a paralyzing fear of failure (which I do not have).  So I wrote a letter “to a friend who is struggling with feelings of failure.”  If you feel like you have failed to have enough travel or adventures in your life (or at any other aspect of your life), you might find it helpful to see things from a new perspective.  Here’s what I wrote:

Hi friend,
I hear you are struggling with feelings of failure.  So I thought you might like to hear from an expert in failing.
You see, I am a manufacturing automation engineer.  In plain English, that means I fix robots that make cookies and ice cream.  When something breaks, it’s up to me to fix it, even if I don’t know what the problem is.  Many times, I am called to fix something even if I don’t know how it works or what it does!
Needless to say, it would be impossible to walk in and immediately fix the broken part and be done.
When the ice cream machine breaks down, I have to fail many times before the machine is fixed.  Is the machine plugged in?  Yep.  Damn, I failed at fixing it.  Is the power on?  Damn, failed again.  Maybe I should go home before I get fired.  Sometimes I might fail 100 times without fixing a single thing.
It’s not about making sure things go smoothly all the time.  It’s what you do about it when things go wrong.  Do you give up?  Or do you keep trying new things until you figure out something that works?  You see, each one of those failures is not inherently negative.  Instead, look at each failure as gaining information.  Ok, so the problem with the ice cream machine probably isn’t related to the power source.
What happens when you don’t know the next step?  Is that when you go home?  No, at my job, I am not required to know everything off the top of my head.  Sometimes I have to look things up or even consult an expert.  You too, are not required to know everything.  There are plenty of resources, and an amazing community to reach out to.  It is very likely that someone else has struggled with the same problem that you are having, and can offer insight.  And there’s always an expert to reach out to.
So the next time you feel like you have failed, just remember to step back and try to see what information you can gain out of the experience.  And if you are persistent in your quest, there just might be ice cream on the other side.




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