“You’re not a failure. You’re worse than failure — because a failure is someone who has at least tried.”
I was watching a movie the other day and one scene really stuck in my head. A young guy is driving drunk, with his friend doing a bunch of drugs in the passenger seat. They get into a car accident, and a cop shows up at the scene (which turns out to be the driver’s father).
The kid in the driver seat says “Thank god it’s you Dad, we’d be in jail for a long time if it weren’t you.”
The dad didn’t care it was his son, “Shut the hell up and get on your goddamn knees,” he said.
And he proceeds to arrest his son.
His son starts crying and pleading, saying he’s such a failure and he knows it, talking about how he hasn’t done anything with his life and he’s trying his best.
His father replies, “No son. You’re worse than a failure. Because a failure is someone who has at least tried.”
Lots of us assume we’re failures, or assume other people are failures, but in reality we’re worse than failures.
We say we “tried” something — the soccer team in high school, starting a business after college, a relationship or marriage with a person — and that it’s time to give up now, because we “tried.”
“At least I gave it a good run,” we lie to ourselves.
Well, you’re in for some bad news.
So much of the time when we tell ourselves “I tried my best,” we’re full of shit.
The title “failure” needs to be earned
A failure is in a whole different category than someone who hasn’t tried. For some reason we tend to just put people in two categories: success, and everything else. But the reality is that there are degrees of non-success. And they aren’t all created equal.
You don’t deserve the title of “failure” if:
- You have a ton of “million dollar ideas” that you haven’t seriously tried
- Many of the decisions you should be making aren’t made because of fear (it’s a common thread)
- You lack commitment to one cause or idea
- You don’t risk something (money, safety, happiness, time)
- You haven’t tried seriously
The threads underlying the worse-than-failure personality? Fear and laziness. Laziness – because it’s easier to dream up a million dollar idea than to do it.
And fear – because “worse-than-failures” prefer the predictability of a mundane life to the uncertainty inherent in an excellent one.
What “trying seriously” actually means
The last point about “worse-than-failures” is that they don’t try seriously. But they deceive themselves into thinking they do.
It’s like a young boy running a 100 meter dash who is too afraid of hurting himself or too afraid of throwing up his lunch to push himself to win.
It’s like the business owner who sees some success but quits as soon as some deals fall through or progress isn’t going as quickly as she thought.
It’s the blogger who has been writing blog posts for months and hasn’t seen any income from it.
And it’s the guy in the bar who chats up a pretty girl but is too afraid to ask for her phone number.
They all say: “I tried my best..”
Unfortunately it’s the fear talking, and not you. And none of those entail really trying.
Trying half-assed is like not trying at all. So many choices we make in life are actually black and white – but fear makes us put in the grey area.
Seriously trying something entails constantly getting knocked down, and then getting back up.
It entails running until you think your lungs will explode and you’ll collapse on the ground dead.
It means creating a business that flops once, twice, three times, and starting over.
And it means pushing past the fear to ask a pretty girl for her number, and instead, doing it regardless of the consequences (scarier than death for most men).
The truth about failure
The truth about failure is that it’s a thousand times more respectable than what most people end up calling a “failure.”
Most of us are “worse-than-failures” and it’s time to accept it.
Real failure entails risk, it entails constant difficulty and constant striving, it entails heartbreak, gain and loss, and blindingly hard work.
It entails many days of talking yourself off that ledge.
Calling someone a failure, therefore, says a lot about a person’s character. It’s a title of respect.
And many of us don’t deserve the title of failure.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
It’s time for you to ask yourself. Are you a failure, or worse than a failure?