We have all Google-d at some point “famous failures”. We have all craved to see that reassuring video that tells us: success is not the exquisite privilege of a tiny fraction of the world’s population, famous people around the world have failed and have failed, probably, bigger than us – the ordinary. And that makes us happy and complacent in our tiny lives – the simple reassuring, once-in-a-while-to-be-seen video which says: no matter how much stuff life throws at you, it is all rainbows and butterflies compared with what they lived. That makes us cope with the lives we live.
For some, however, those videos are about inspiration: the trigger, the drive, the sign, the push, the kick in the ass. And those people are the ones who open a new tab and copy paste the YouTube link on a listen on repeat website, counting in their minds: how many steps, how many years, how many failures, how many rejections it took to reach success and they store that information in their brains creating barriers of age, of stages, of too high or too small expectations which shape their fragile bubble worlds modeled after their predecessors’.
Yet, too often we search famous failures for both reasons, which makes it a fairly destructive process: we look for inspiration but we end up comforted in our own lives, and when/if the time comes for us to fail, we back down, because we “know” we cannot do it, we “know” we are not THEM, we “always knew” success is just a bedtime story, a mere dream caught in the web of our wishes, and we get tired of all these famous failures, exactly because they are FAMOUS, they are not ordinary, they are not us…
Then my story happened. An ordinary story. A real story. I decided in my second year of studies to run for International Students’ Officer in the Students’ Union Elections. I was enthusiastic, I though I had enough experience and energy to cope with it and I went along with what my heart wanted. I knew I could create a change for the better. So I ran and, in a nutshell, I lost. I was asked, a year after, many times if I knew statistics, if I knew the exact numbers to realize what went wrong and I think my answer was quite unexpected for those people: I didn’t know, simply because I didn’t CARE. You see, dear reader, when you fail, when YOU fail, everything else loses meaning, the failure just throws you in this circle of doubt and negativity. It’s like a bad spell that makes you forget how important, how smart, how brave you were to run or how courageous you are to try this new thing. Personal failure makes famous failure seem meaningless as it takes time to understand that the difference between you and them is that they did not give up.
I said I would run again the very second I found out the result. However, it took time to heal, it took time to accept it was ok to fail and that it was ok to try again and, potentially, fail again. This ugly glooming perspective of second failure, this negative cloud of unpredictability hinders anyone from trying again. I had many fears, many times, most of them regarding this perspective of another failure. The facile solution of running from it, of backing down seemed, at times, unexpectedly attractive. Fortunately, with a bit of inner strength and a bit more encouragement from the people who care for me, I went with it until the end, in third year, and guess what? I won. I won the position of International Students’ Officer in the best rated Students’ Union in the country. Suddenly, all those famous failures make sense now. Yes, you can achieve your dreams if you try again and again.
Still, there will be people who will look at my story and throw a label on it and “bin” it with the rest of famous failures followed by famous successes, since, of course, we are not all the same, we cannot all win at all times, you cannot be me. But who says you need to be me? Or Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, or Oprah Winfrey? I know what you’re thinking and I promise this is more than a “be yourself, everyone else is taken” cheesy ending. I just want you to do one thing: when you are tired of famous failures, or ordinary failures and successes, or anything motivational that just seems far-fetched when you look in the mirror, then close your eyes and forget about all these “role-models” that we shout about all day long and think what you want to become. Remember it is ok to not be satisfied with who you are in this second when you can thrive for a better self in the next one, it is ok to crop from models and stick pieces together as long as you learn to use your own adhesives, you need to establish what’s your criteria, your limits, your strengths, your boundaries, your future achievements. Pick a pad and find a pen, start writing about your dreams and about yourself and post that on your walls. That should be your motivation when nothing else seems plausible. In fact, that should be your motivation even if everything else seems plausible. Write yourself out. Step forward. Challenge failure. Let it rain on your fertile soil – success breeds on every cell of your watered skin.
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