Daily Prompt The Spice of Success If “failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor” (Truman Capote), how spicy do you like your success stories?
Failure — the sound of one hand clapping
Success — the sound of two hands clapping.
Ah, this subject, the one to which my students historically respond, “Yeah, it depends what you mean by success,” as a way to weasel out of writing about it. Me too. I’m weaseling out of it, too, I think… We’ll see how successful my weaseling is (ultimately).
This prompt lends itself to many popular clichés around the lie, “There’s no such thing as failure, as long as you do your best.” The book I used to teach from (and which should be required reading for everyone everywhere) is a critical thinking text titled Beyond Feelings by V. R. Ruggiero. Ruggiero likes facts and so do I. One fact that Ruggiero writes about is the fact that we do fail. We attempt and we fail.
My students — mostly — came from the “everyone wins” culture and one of them a couple of years ago said, yeah, she got a ribbon even though she lost a race. “It was so dumb. I knew I lost. I mean when everyone is WAITING for you to cross the finish line you KNOW you didn’t win, right? Even when you’re only six.” The ribbon she got, by the way, was brown. It was the only brown ribbon; it was a ribbon awarded to the loser. It was a ribbon that said, “You failed, and here’s a ribbon to acknowledge your failure.” (Cold comfort.)
Even that attempt to spin failure into success, uh, failed…
Another cool cliché (which might have a germ of truth in it) “The only real failure is not trying.” I am not sure that’s logically sound. If you do not TRY you cannot FAIL.
So, how spicy do I like my successes? I don’t even care that much about succeeding anymore. Why? Well, here’s the deal. Someone looking at me might see success that I do not see. That’s another element to this — success is often in the eye of the beholder. Here is an example…
Anyone who reads my blog often knows my brother was a hardcore alcoholic who tried, for a period of time, to get his life together. During the early 90s, when my life was falling apart, my marriage had broken, I was having a hard time earning enough money to make it from one end of the month to the other, I spoke with my brother on the phone. It was a real heart-to-heart and at one point I said, “I just don’t see the point. All I do is patch things up and hold them together.”
“Wow,” he said, “you can do that? You can patch things up and hold them together?”
From his point of view, I was doing well. I heard two hands clapping.
And, after that conversation, I knew I had — up till then — completely missed the point of everything. Success was NOT getting the job, or getting the guy, or getting published, or getting anything I might put my eyes on and pursue with the single minded purpose of a kid running a race. It was pretty simple. I would patch things up and hold them together and be happy that I have that ability — or have had, so far. And the point of the brown ribbon? Maybe deep down inside someone wanted to help the kid learn that the important part of any enterprise is simply showing up. Nothing happens if you don’t.