By Samantha McKenzie
I used to be my own worst critic. When I’d make a mistake, I’d be first in line to beat myself up. I could be harsh too. Truth is, when I failed at anything – a task, a competition, a relationship – it could cause a minor setback in my life.
As a self-professed overachiever, I put a lot of pressure on succeeding. It was a part of my DNA. When I got a 97 on an exam, I agonized over the 3 points I had missed. I learned this from my Guyanese parents. Education was second only to God in my household. It was expected that we excel in school and no excuses were allowed. I still appreciate that lesson.
But as I matriculated through life, I had to learn balance. I came to understand that failure is just as worthy as success. Matter of fact, it is the only way to become successful. I found that failing, losing, messing up, and making mistakes were the building blocks to achieving every goal. I began to open up to the beauty of my failures and to the extraordinary opportunities they afforded me.
Failure is an event that is short lived. It’s temporal. It has a beginning and an ending. It was never meant to be a badge of shame nor an indictment on one’s ability. Granted, it’s a tough and sometimes costly lesson. Most of the time these teachable moments will knock you down flat on your back, leaving you breathless. But when it’s all said and done, if you can endure the pain and heartbreak, you can rise up and start all over again.
Your failure doesn’t define who you are either. Instead, failure is the best teacher. Failure taught me at eight years old how to spell the word breathe after I left off the final “e” during a spelling bee. Failure taught me to temper my anger, because words are weighty and damaging and mine could be both. I learned too from failure that I should slow down when I’m on the verge of love, no need to rush because love, well real love that is, lasts a lifetime anyway.
Failure forces you back to the drawing board, making you ask more questions, of other people, on topics you had no idea you would have to learn about just to get to one goal. It makes you uncomfortable with yesterday’s thoughts and inspires you to explore possibilities. Failure requires, no begs of you, to empty yourself of everything you thought you knew just so it can make room for what’s to come.
It makes you check your ego at the door.
Remember, there is no singer who hasn’t sung a song off key. There is no best-selling author who doesn’t have an unpublished manuscript sitting on a shelf. There’s no athlete who hasn’t had a bad game or missed a shot when it counted the most. Anyone who has been successful in any aspect of life, has gotten there through a series of missteps. And they learned from it.
If you’re strong enough, if you’re willing to go long enough, failure will even become your best friend. Let if fuel your ambition. Let it guide you to your success. Let it teach you.