fail·ure (per dictionary.com)
- The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends: the failure of an experiment.
- The condition or fact of being insufficient or falling short: a crop failure.
- A cessation of proper functioning or performance: a power failure.
- Nonperformance of what is requested or expected; omission: failure to report a change of address.
- The act or fact of failing to pass a course, test, or assignment.
- A decline in strength or effectiveness.
Most of these definitions have a negative connotation: not achieving, not succeeding, not functioning properly, not being strong or effective. But does "failure" have to have a negative connotation? A friend once challenged me on this point and I have to admit he had a point.
Failure can mean many positive things: you tried, you took a risk, you did something that stretched your abilities. There are many things you can gain through failure: what doesn't work, where your boundaries are, where you can grow and develop your skills. And ultimately, all things come to an end and isn't that often interpreted as failure? (Organ failure is the most obvious one.) The end is just the end - it's not good or bad in and of itself. The value we put on it is not inherent, and therefore is something we can change.
Since I've talked about endings being natural and a part of life in my post, Good at Endings, I'll move on to the point on taking risks. An article on MSN Money called "Do dyslexics make great CEOs?" makes a very good point that people with dyslexia get used to failure. This translates into success because they're more willing to takes risks, to delegate, to value the efforts of others, and to not get discouraged by the small issues. The fact that these traits are a byproduct of their abilities is something that's generally ignored by the marketplace, but the traits themselves are valued. These traits that came from struggle and risk and imperfection.
As a recovering perfectionist, the revelation that failure has great value was an important one. I refer back to it whenever I can. I'm not very comfortable yet with failure, but I hope to be able to take enough risks in life to become acquainted with it, and maybe, eventually, to become friends with it.
Acknowledgements go to MWT, who subsequently blogged about endings. MWT's comment about feeling like a failure prompted this post, though I admit to spending much time thinking on this subject in the last few months.