By Emily Brennan
My New Year’s resolution is to fail more. Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m running around making intentionally poor decisions, but it does require a bit more impulse than I typically employ. I once tried rock climbing at an indoor rock wall, and because I’m terrified of heights I actually cried. When I was near the top of the wall my friend who was belaying for me told me to let go of the wall—I told her no thank you. Eventually she convinced me to let go and I was suspended in mid air, not crashing to the ground. In general, letting go of the wall when you are climbing is considered a fail, but I had to fail, I had to become comfortable with the potential to fall in order to overcome the fear of failing.
Most people know that the most valuable experiences, the most compelling triumphs, are found amongst the rubble of failure, but how often do we actually let ourselves fail? Many people embark into the new year by resolving to get their dream job at a specific firm, or to meet the perfect guy, or to become a better cook—the accomplishment of these goals translates to success for these resolute reborns.
What if, instead, we said I will take the wrong job, I will date the guy who isn’t my type, and I will try the incredibly complicated French recipe with the ingredients I can’t pronounce. As a “Type A” personality, I know all too well that the “A” doesn’t stand for adventurous. However, in 2014, I have had more life changes than any other year. I have been thrust into the post-grad world of uncertainty, I have been reminiscing about where I thought I would be at this point in my life and (surprise, surprise) I am not doing what I thought I would be doing. I have failed in procuring the life that I thought I would have at 23 years old. Thank goodness I failed.
I’ve taken more risks, become more carefree, and less stressed due to my willingness to let go of the wall and let myself hang in midair. I reach for things that I never thought I would reach for and it doesn’t always end up great, in fact, a lot of times it leads to what appears to be a dead end. However, as I sit at a dead end I begin to look in even more unlikely places for a way out and that has led to experiences that I never thought I would have.
Many of my “failures” in 2014 were, admittedly, unintentional. Failure may be one of my greatest fears, but imagine if I had not seen these blunders as failures, but rather as opportunities. What if these failures were actually successful roadblocks to places I didn’t want to be. I suppose saying that I plan to fail more in 2015 is inaccurate; instead, I am going to things that I perceive to have a higher risk of failure, but there is a sliver of a chance that that means there is a higher return. A creative writing teacher I once had told me to write my characters into a corner because then the character may have to do something extraordinary to get out of that corner.
I am just a monthly contributor to this magazine; you probably don’t know me personally and I would understand if you didn’t want to follow the advice of some twenty-something whom you’ve never met. If you don’t want to take my advice on a failure filled 2015, just remember that there are many others who seem to support this idea:
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” -Paulo Coelho
“You have to be free to fail in this world.” -J.K. Rowling
“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” -T.S. Eliot
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” -Robert F. Kennedy
“It’s failure that gives you proper perspective on success.” -Ellen DeGeneres
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill
“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” -Eloise Ristad
In my search of great failure quotes, two of them assure us that “failure isn’t fatal.” Let go of the wall, unless you aren’t attached to a harness, then don’t.