Failure is Mandatory.

For as much time and energy as we give to showcasing success, what a shame it is that we hide and bury all of the struggle that makes it so beautiful to experience.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Among more inexperienced coaches, there’s this mentality that the profession is about selling success. You market yourself as a story, a narrative explanation of the techniques you use or the secret sauce so to speak that you alone discovered and are now ready to share with the world.

Don’t get me wrong. Sessions with me sample from a lot of different secret sauces. But beyond all that there’s this unavoidable basic truth to life that a lot of us — coaches and our clients alike — love to ignore. I’m talking about the reality that failure is mandatory.

What I mean is that you’re going to fail.

This can’t be shocking news. If you’ve made it far enough in life to be reading coaching articles on the internet, chances are you’ve failed once or twice already. The good news is that you’re going to fail again in the future. And the great news is that after reading this article you’re going to go into that failure recognizing its value, and it’s not going to derail you quite as bad next time.

A tragic consequence of this profession is that it’s full of people who will try and reduce life to a mathematical formula of wishing really hard for the things you want. When — instead of becoming a millionaire, for instance — you lose your business, or, when all the juice fasts money can buy don’t eliminate your chronic illness, the implicit messaging here is that you and your mindset are to blame.

You must secretly want to live in an economy or to have a human body.

Maybe we soften that a little. Maybe it’s not our conscious mindset. Maybe we just aren’t consciously aware of our true purpose, so when we don’t manifest what we thought we wanted, it’s because it’s not actually part of our true purpose in life. Okay, but how does that work metaphysically? If we aren’t going to attract anything but our true purpose into our lives, why make any conscious effort at all — why even get out of bed? Can we fail to attract our true purpose if it’s not our true purpose to fail at doing so?

Somewhere in an economy-less and body-less world, the answer is abundantly clear.

At the risk of being excommunicated from the Church of Life Coaching, here’s a simpler worldview: shit happens. Conflict, and death, and difficulties make life interesting, and terrible, and meaningful. Failure is mandatory. Life comes with limits. Sometimes our idea of failure looks like a sudden loss or a lifelong struggle with mental illness. Other times it can be something seemingly stupid like not sticking to your diet plan everyday or picking up cigarettes again because the last year was really tough.

For as much time and energy as we give to showcasing success, what a shame it is that we hide and bury all of the struggle that makes it so beautiful to experience.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stand a life without failure. I don’t want to receive everything I wish for — no strings attached, no challenge, no loss, no trade-offs. Maybe in a funny way the necessary suffering is part of my true purpose in life. Maybe if you clicked on this article, it’s part of your true purpose too.

I think I’ve grown too old for that kind of thinking though. I think I’ll stick with the simple economics of life as I understand it.

Sometimes we don’t have great choices. Sometimes every choice before us totally sucks. Sometimes it just happens like that. Sometimes we did it to ourselves. And sometimes it’s unfair, and we’re being deliberately put in this position by another person or society as an institutional force in our lives. I won’t even try to downplay or erase that. No one should.

But here’s what you can challenge yourself to do: when you are in control, when you do have a choice, when you can make one choice that opens the door for two or three even better choices in the future — claim that power. Refuse to take even one step backwards into the lack of choices you’ve experienced before. Never mistake your present self for the limits you’ve endured in the past. Live fully, however you want to do it, in each of those choices you get to make, and savor the experience of it.

Know that success is fleeting. Know that failure is likewise impermanent. Know that nothing is guaranteed, and that much is denied to many. Honor all of the failures you stand on in your power. Find the pride standing in your highest highs and your lowest lows.

This is the nature of life, as we live it.

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