“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney
I came across this quote for the first time when I was doing a project in high school. I was baffled by this strange statement, made by one of my biggest idols. I said to myself, “How on Earth could a ‘kick in the teeth’ be the best thing in the world for you?”
I arrogantly dismissed it and declared that my entire adult life was going to be a smooth ride and I would be unscathed by any major troubles, worries and pain. I was going to bypass all the common hurdles because I planned on being super vigilant about my decisions and choices.
It didn’t take very long for me to receive a heavy dose of humility and realize how wrong I was. It was not so long after joining college did I have my first set of real-world experiences of failure: grades that I was not happy about, friends that disappointed me, and getting turned down for a coveted internship.
It was an emotional roller-coaster for someone with a naïve disposition and idealistic notions. Fortunately, I was able to find answers and solace in books. I had many epiphanies while flipping through pages of books from the shelves of Barnes and Noble, after my classes. While sipping a hot chai latte in the café, I soaked in everything that I read and took detailed notes.
The wisdom that I gained during these self-education sessions aided my maturity process and helped me gradually understand the purpose of all the challenges and difficulties that I was facing in my academic and personal life and the attitude I needed to overcome them.
I stopped seeing my failures as a reflection on my self-worth, which was very liberating for me, and I began to accept it as being part of the process of becoming successful and improving my learning curve.
The key is to remain adaptable and avoid getting disheartened and quitting. If we can shift our perspective to seeing failure as one of our greatest teachers, we stand to benefit from it tremendously.
Here are a few reasons why I decided to make peace with failure and embrace it as part of my personal evolution:
- It forces us to re-evaluate what’s really important to us: Whenever we fail to achieve a desired outcome, we have to decide whether we should try again or let go. To make this choice, we have to consider the importance of achieving this objective and its significance in the big picture of our life. Only after engaging in this soul-searching process will we be able to decide whether we should quit or tap into our purpose so that we can fuel our passion to succeed.
- It makes us resilient and stronger: Even though failure can really hurt when it happens to us, what we don’t realize is that it is changing who we are on a deep cellular level. Whether it’s a failed marriage or business that didn’t get off the ground, these difficulties are like the Universe’s personal trainer, whipping us into shape so that we become better equipped to reach our goals. We might have to endure some aches and pain but, after we pass through any challenging phase, we will always come out stronger and more capable of combating future adversities. Just as how a piece of coal has to undergo pressure to become a diamond, we too have to face challenges to find our inner light.
- We gain wisdom and learn life-lessons: It is no coincidence that we learn some the most valuable lessons from the toughest times in our life. These are lessons that are rarely taught in school or in our homes – the only way to receive this “life education” is through our personal experiences. When we endure failure, the learning becomes much more potent because it hits us on a visceral level. In this way, we gain an understanding that goes beyond the logical mind.
- We get valuable feedback that enables us to adjust our strategy: Failure can provide valuable feedback that enables us to improve our strategies. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that’s won’t work,” while trying to invent the first light bulb. If we pay attention to what went wrong, we can rectify the flaws that caused the failure, thereby increasing our chances of getting closer to our goal and moving closer to our purpose.
- It makes victory so much sweeter: The truth is that we tend to value the things that we have had to struggle for. When things come to us too easily and we didn’t have to work for it, most of us don’t feel as satisfied. Even if we do reach our destination feeling tired and battle-worn, the sense of accomplishment that we’ll derive from our victory will deeply fulfill us because we know that it resulted from our own efforts.
If you are someone who is caught up in the midst of failure, just remember that you are already a winner because of your decision to put yourself out there and take a risk for something that’s important to you. Like a valiant knight, you have chosen to race through the battlefield of life with your eyes focused on your dream, which you can envision on the distant horizon.
I say keep your eyes focused on the horizon and keep riding – you will eventually get there!
All my best on your journey,
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