Being a Better Failure

“We cannot fix the world, we cannot even fix our own life. By accepting failure we express our willingness to begin again, time after time. By recognizing failure we change, renew, adapt, listen, and grow. It is only by participating without expectation of success that we can ever truly open to the world, to suffering and to joy.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

Which is to say, perhaps success isn’t something to outline as a goal per se. Best not to go after things because we are looking for success, as much as because we are in love, alive, resonant, passionate, about whatever it is that we are about and want to do.

What is important is engagement. Connectedness. Success in conventional terms is somewhat immaterial. If it comes, so much the better, if not we are still in love, alive, resonant and passionate. And is that not the larger part of the point in being alive at all?

Yes it is.

The emphasis on conventional forms of success—the idea that we are worthy only to the degree that we are also perceived as successful—is troubling to me. Does not a fine piece of art remain a fine, worthy piece of art whether or not it receives wider acknowledgment as such? We most often cannot control the world or how other people respond to our work. The thing we do enjoy some control over is our attitude, our commitment to it and how we’d like to move through the ups and downs that comprise any life.

Are we going to be a victim, or are we going to thoughtfully look at what we’ve got to work with and ask ourselves; “I wonder what I can do with the contents of my life that might be beautiful, liberating, a source of joy and inspiration to myself and others?”

Best to give up on the idea of fixing ourselves too. For how can any of us, blind and ignorant as we will always be on some level, delude ourselves that we can fix ourselves? The logic doesn’t follow. Blind ignorance can’t fix anything. The well-intended arrogance that allows some (and regrettably I have to count myself in here) to provide 3-step solutions to any human problem is LUDICROUS!


I think it would probably be best for us all to surrender any remaining ideas we may cling to of spiritual and psychological hygiene.

True success, then, might more productively be thought of as being a better failure; becoming more fully human, not less. Fact is, we are inevitably—simultaneously even—both wondrous and tragically flawed in the living of our humanity.

The irony in this may just be that being a better failure invites a soul-enlivening sense of humility into our lives keeping us grounded, keeping us real; and humble people are in my experience among the sanest, most creative and happy of people.