We're a society obsessed with success and wealth. And celebrities. (Yes, I watched The Golden Globes too).
Yet failure is a reality that we have all faced at some point and in some way in our lives. A failed exam. A failed project. A failed marriage. A failed business. A failed job interview. A failed home reno. A failed attempt (or several) at IVF. A failed rescue mission.
Yes, failure comes in all flavours, shapes and sizes, and in many ways it's a natural part of life.
So, why do we continue to obsess about success, chasing every permutation of it with near-manic determination, hungering to be around shiny and dazzling people whom we deem to be a "success," all the while sweeping their homely sibling, "failure" to the dark recesses of corners and shadows?
Is failure some sort of nasty, highly contagious strain of "cooties" that we're afraid of catching if we get too close?
2014 was a-nasty-piece-of-work year for the world at large, as well as for many people I know, including me.
Personally, I've lost count of the number of breakups, divorces, deaths and all sorts of other losses I heard about. Then there were the two battles with aggressive forms of cancer close to home: one resulting in the loss of a dear friend's beloved husband after a brutal 18-month battle, and a second in which a friend continues her brave fight as the Warrior Queen that she truly is.
And then my 2015 began with a milestone birthday, and a monumental failure.
What failed was an ambitious online project and venture that my former business partner and I had spent pretty much all of 2014 building in the face of back-breaking obstacles and setbacks. And on the heels of the year that it was, our tiny team and I spent endless 17-hour days particularly over the holidays working like lunatics, when normal people were making merry with their families and friends.
The weird thing about this particular failure is the somewhat spiritual nature of it all. Stay with me, I'll explain!
Have you ever had those moments in your life when everything just worked, and when doors flung open as if my magic? When people, opportunity and just about everything lined up amazingly? I have, many times. So I know exactly what that feels like.
Yet, in the past few exceptionally challenging years, there has been a markedly different theme at play, and in fact, my experience has been quite the opposite. And especially over the last few difficult weeks of 2014 it was downright spooky and illogical as to how firmly closed those doors were, even when we were constantly going around the back and kicking in windows in every creative and resourceful way!
Yeah, I hear you. It's not unusual to face obstacles and setbacks, especially when you're building something big and ambitious, right? But what is highly unusual is to face a series of obstacles in the way that we did, crushing any and all wins along the way. We faced every obstacle headlong, overcoming each with even greater creativity and super-human force of will and determination.
Yet bizarrely, as quickly as we had overcome one, we would be hit with another new obstacle popping up out of the blue like a freakishly mutant Whack-a-Mole, even bigger than the previous, stopping us dead in our tracks while eliciting a collective "WTF??!!".
I kid you not, it's as if we were being "purposely blocked" by the Universe.
I know it sounds crazy, but in hindsight it felt as if the Universe was telling us that this venture was just not meant to be. And no matter how hard we tried to ignore the signs, and push through those obstacles and setbacks with sheer force of will, those doors and windows we kicked open the day before would be firmly shut by the following morning. It simply made no sense at all. Or did it?
And in the opening days of January, in the face of the final setback that was so irrational in many ways, we made the decision to pull the plug.
I won't lie to you, it's been a really tough couple of weeks processing this loss and failure, wondering why, and questioning what I've always believed to be a kind and benevolent Universe, not the seemingly cruel and malevolent one that somehow made itself known of late.
But is it? Malevolent, that is.
This recent failure has been personally significant. Without getting too "woo woo" on you, it does feel as if it's been carefully orchestrated, forcing me to course-correct when my ego's kung-fu grip refused to let me.
Trust me when I say, given the sheer lunacy of all these events, a logical lens went out the window in place of one that's more spiritual and philosophical: I've had a lot of big changes happen in my life over the past several years, and it was almost as if this time, my free will no longer mattered. Why? Because I guess that the path I was on with that online venture was so essentially wrong for me, and yet I was not listening.
In hindsight, in the process of building that venture I had regressed, in many ways operating from my previous definitions of success and values and ways of being that are no longer aligned with who, deep down, I know I truly am these days, at the core of my being.
Truth be told, I was not happy, nor did I feel genuinely connected to what I was doing. Yet, it had all the markings of huge success and I got caught up in that. And I guess for those reasons, the malevolent/benevolent Universe jumped into the driver's seat and unceremoniously ripped everything away to put me squarely back on the path that I was previously on (as a coach) but with a different and much bigger iteration today.
And after much painful resistance on my part, I must admit that this new path feels more aligned to the woman I have been becoming for the past several years and am today.... and yet, it scares the crap out of me -- writing about, talking about and teaching about "failure"; bringing it out from within the shadows; about writing and talking about the challenges of being at a cross-roads in life in a public way, and with a deeper level of openness and vulnerability, talking about and showing others how to bounce forward in the face of it all.
And here are just three reasons (of many) why all of this scares the crap out of me:
1. Society tells us that it's cool and sexy to talk about success. But it's neither cool nor sexy to talk about failure, especially personal failure.
2. I am ordinarily a rather private person and talking about myself this openly is terrifying.
3. Will people look at me as if I've lost my mind if I write about this?
Then again, I think about courageous, bold and inspiring women such as Brene Brown, Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert and so many others who have had the balls to write about and very publicly share their own personal dances with "failure" to the benefit of so many of us.
And if the recent tragic events in Paris, as well as in Asia (with the crash of yet another airplane filled with innocent lives lost), should teach us anything it's that life is too f-ing short and precious. There are no guarantees and everything can change, and does, in the blink of an eye.
That doesn't give you or me carte blanche to live with reckless abandon or irresponsibility, but it should be a very good reason and call-to-action to listen hard to the truth of what Life and your heart is telling you (even if it's highly unpleasant). It should be a very good reason to live with intention, and to choose without regret. It's a call-to-action to fearlessly walk to the edge. To laugh. To play with abandon. To do what you really love. To truly love and appreciate those you love. And to live as if this is all that there is. Because news flash, it really is.
So, on the heels of this latest and greatest personal failure, and two weeks into a 40-something birthday, I feel moved, inspired and terrified to declare this new journey with a big, baby step, to chronicle not just my own "crazy dance" but to go in search of all the amazing yet untold stories of everyday women just like you and me, dancing their dances with adversity and failure, ready to share their voices, and figuring out ways to bounce forward in the face of it all.
I sense that this is going to be a somewhat big and scary walk through the wilderness, so I'd really love the company. And please remember to pack the right type of propane! After all, we don't want to be stuck eating "cold mush" for days! If you've watched the movie Wild, you'll know what I mean.
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