Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Success of Failure

            Growing up in Amway, success was our religion.  My father employed a strict “no failure” rule.  Dream boards and positive affirmations kept me focused on making it to the top.  The ridicule of being gay fueled my drive for success and contributed to my intolerance for failure.  So when failure happened in my life, and it’s happened a lot, I had nothing but anger and resentment towards myself.   It was unacceptable to me.  I never learned that falling down is part of the journey. I fought it every step of the way until I went through the darkest period of my life a few years ago. It broke me. I finally had to admit that, despite my best efforts, I had failed. I was not the person I wanted to be.
            At the time, I had no idea, but this bitter experience was to become the greatest lesson of my life.  I faced my ultimate fear and lived.  It turns out, of course, that I needed to fail in order to see myself clearly - and give up on aspects of my personality that appeared to work for me- but were really working against me.  I realized I had never let myself change because I was petrified of what other people might think of me. My image was more important than my growth as a human being. My ego was more important than my self.
            Since then I've been trying to embrace the parts of me that are difficult to accept. In fact, my ego is a constant and fascinating study in human failure. About a year ago, I perceived a situation to be something it wasn’t based on some information that was presented to me. I sent out an email in defense of this half-truth and realized by the day’s end that I was wrong.  I had to make immediate amends. The shame that came over me was catastrophic.  It consumed me. “What will people think when they see that email?” It took a good friend to point out that I am human and will make mistakes: it’s not the mistake that really matters, it’s the humility to admit and correct that error. 
           My friend suggested that I list my assets as a man and observe this situation from a more balanced perspective. We have good days and bad days. I can be incredibly compassionate, funny and giving. But I can also be stubborn, judgmental and over-reactive.  That incident made me stop and say, “I am finally ready to address this issue.”  That's the journey.  The lesson is often in the failure and the willingness to admit defeat.  The victory is in accomplishing the necessary change. That’s real success. 

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