Philosophy Friday: Failure And Perseverance
“The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.”
– Marcus Aurelius
Have you ever watched babies learning to walk? It’s fascinating. The way they gingerly move themselves into a standing position, holding onto a wall or other structure. They slowly put one foot forward, but then lose balance and fall to the floor. And then they repeat this process. Again. And again. Pretty much always with the same result. By the time they are confident walkers, they will have tried and failed, hundreds of times.
One day when my eldest son was learning to walk, he slipped and hit his head on the corner of our wooden coffee table. Luckily there was no blood, but he did get a decent bruise above his right eye. Within minutes, a golf-ball-sized purple lump had swelled up, and he could hardly open his eye. Did that stop him wanting to be a walker? Nope. Later on the same day, he was back at it, practising his walking!
Not walking is not an option for babies; they all become walkers. They ignore the falls. The failures are required to get the success—they are part of the process—no success without those failures.
“Success Is Going from Failure to Failure Without Losing Your Enthusiasm”
– Winston Churchill
If babies can show this level of perseverance, why can’t we? Why do we give up so readily on what we want?
Many of us are in careers and jobs we hate. Family and friends tell us to be realistic, or we have told ourselves as much. We need to be financially secure and comfortable. Now we hate what we do with our time, but we have the money to buy the latest iPhone.
Maybe we even tried a couple of times to get out of the rat race, to start our own business or new career. But it doesn’t work out—time to get real and call it quits. Usually, we tend to give it a few half-hearted attempts and then leave it at that. It must be too hard.
It’s like we’ve forgotten what we used to ‘know’ as babies—that the failures are necessary. They are the stepping stones to our success. It’s time to recall that if we keep relentlessly coming at an obstacle, it will at some point, crumble before us.
If you adopted the perseverance of babies, imagine what mountains you could conquer.
“Our inward power, when it obeys nature, reacts to events by accommodating itself to what it faces – to what is possible. It needs no specific material. It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow; it turns obstacles into fuel. As a fire overwhelms what would have quenched a lamp. What’s thrown on top of the conflagration is absorbed, consumed by it – and makes it burn still higher.”
– Marcus Aurelius