The “F” Word

Before your eyes pop out, let me clarify myself. I speak of the ‘F’ word that is far more impactful than any other word in your life. The ‘F’ word that is by far the worst abusive word you can use on anyone. And that word is – Failure. It’s been 2 and half months of me being jobless and I am happy. Your eyes must be popping out again. So take a deep breath and listen to my entire story.

I met a school friend a couple of months ago and we started chatting again, about school, about life, about where all everyone has reached in their life etc. (it has been a good 9 years since we graduated from school). After an hour of talking, she asked me, “Where were you in school? I don’t remember talking to you like this. If I would have known we had so much in common, we would have been great friends.” I smiled for then but the question baffled me. Where was I in school? So I started to think how my school life was. It was definitely fun and amazing, the best time we ever get in our lives. Only learning and no other responsibilities than passing in the next exam! Who doesn’t want that back? But apart from that I realized, I was a ‘nobody’ in school. It kind of pains me to say that now, because 9 years of grooming myself, I have come to a point where I’m so terribly sure of myself I tend to intimidate others. But in school, I was a wimp! I wasn’t particularly good looking (Okay, I was probably Ugly Betty’s distant cousin!), I wasn’t particularly good in academics (I passed every exam with ease, ambition wasn’t my thing back then!), and lets not even talk about sports! I was one of the backbenchers, but I wasn’t there just for the fun, I was there because I could stay hidden I wasn’t afraid of coming out in the front; I was just not ‘into’ getting attention, it made me uncomfortable. So after having figured all of this out, I sat down to try and compare myself to what I was then. And what has changed? Sure, I’m much more confident than what I was before, and yes, I’m far more ambitious than I was before, but still pretty lazy about it. So in essence, I’m the same. So what was it that stopped me from being ‘me’ then? After a lot of thinking I realized what the answer was, I was afraid of “failing”. I found my comfortable spot, and I didn’t intend to leave that, because there, I was the king. Outside of that, I wouldn’t know. And the fear of failure kept me there all through school.

Seems to be a decent explanation, right? But it’s not. Isn’t school supposed to teach you things greater than lessons in a textbook? What do we learn history for? Just to know how great the world leaders were? Shouldn’t we be taught to be as great and as fearless as they were? Shouldn’t their failures teach us that failures are as important as successes? All we know about science today is because of repeated efforts of scientists. Despite many failures, they powered on and invented something. Isn’t that an important lesson too? William Shakespeare is considered as one of the greatest writers in the English language, but he wasn’t born great either! He perfected himself as he went along. Isn’t that a lesson? If he was afraid of failure, we probably wouldn’t have known him as the “Bard of Avon”. We could do various renditions of his “Othello” but the greatest lesson is not in memorizing the play, it’s in understanding its essence and applying that to your own life.

As yet another academic year ended a couple of months ago, I see the newspapers inundate us with stories of kids having topped, having beaten the previous records and having made their parents proud. But why do we never look at the kids who have “failed” to do so. They have probably scored poorly or have actually lost a year. Sure, it’s terrible and sad. It’s embarrassing too! All your friends suddenly become your seniors, and in case you passed with average marks you don’t get into the best colleges. But that’s not the end of the world. Because the end of the world would be when people prefer winning over learning. I may sound ridiculous, but truth be told, more than half of the reason why I’m so sure and confident of myself today is because I went out there, fell down, picked myself back up only to fall down again. But in the process I learnt so much more than someone who has been seamlessly moving from one point to another.

I do not want to take away anything from the toppers; they have of course, worked hard to get there. But my sole purpose of writing this is to remind everyone; parents, teachers, friends, kids, mentors included that failure is not a bad thing. In fact it’s the best thing that can happen to you. In order to rise up you have to fall down! Success without failure is not success at all; it’s just something that has been handed down to you. It hasn’t been earned!

A Jason Mraz song plays on in my head as I wrap up. It has a few lines that have stuck to me. One of them goes something like this, ‘… I reckon it’s again my turn, to win some or learn some.’ It’s as simple as that isn’t it? You either come out as a winner or a learner! Never a loser! We are all learning. The day you stop learning that’s the day you become a real loser. The fear of failure is keeping you from being the real “YOU”. The real “YOU” is amazing and so full of potential bursting at its seams to get out there and do its thing, create magic. The superior power created that version of you. Don’t suppress it. Let it out into the real world… Be fearless… Be YOU!

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