This post was originally published on October 11, 2010 on andyellwood.com.
If you haven't failed recently, you haven't tried anything new or adventurous. If you don't have a recent scar—be it physical, emotional, or mental—then you're living in a bubble of comfort. If your recent win/loss column is all wins, you need to quit playing in the minor leagues and take your shot at the bigs.
I grew up without much failure in my life. I was raised with an overdeveloped sense of self esteem, encouraged by my parents, friends, and siblings in just about everything that I said I wanted to do. I got into every club, organization, and job that I applied for. As far as I knew, and as cheesy as this sounds, if "I believed it, I achieved it."
And then I got out of shape. Not (just) physically, but I was used to saying that I'd do something and having it happen. It got to the point that as long as I "gave it my best effort," I felt that I'd accomplished something. It was never a failure if I didn't get quite all the way to my goal. It became a goal that I took a little extra time to achieve. And then, the satisfaction was no longer in almost or eventually getting the goal, it was just having the goal! "My goals are better than theirs, so, I'm good" became my modus operandi. The comfort of having the goals became enough that I didn't go out and achieve them.
Then, it happened. I failed. Not at some contrived goal, but in a big huge obnoxious way. The way that everyone finds out about. The way most people fear their entire life will happen to them. And I did it in front of everyone that meant anything to me.
And that was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
The scars from that failure and the ones that came after that are still visible. The scars I carry with me from that colossal failure are visible to most everyone that knows me and I see those scars daily in the form of experience, boldness, and in the lessons I learned and have taken with me into what has come next.
"It's only after we've lost everything that we are free to do anything," a wise man once said. And I've found this to be true. The thing that I had feared the most for a very long time happened to me. The day that it did, I just smiled and thought to myself: "So this is what I was afraid of? Awesome, now I know."
This isn't a blog to encourage people to "look at their failures and find the silver lining" or make sure that "when you fall, you fall forward and learn from your mistakes." No, there are other people who want to teach that lesson. My exhortation is this: Go Fail. Get out of your comfort zone and do something you don't know you'll succeed at. Do something that has a very likely chance that you'll get hurt, have a scar, and be forced to deal with your not-so-perfect self. Not for failures' sake, but for the bigger things in life that you were meant to do. Once you learn how to deal with failure once, it's not so scary to deal with it again. And once you've galvanized yourself to the momentary pain and thickened your skin to the tough times ahead, the world looks completely differently and the opportunities are endless.