Failing can leave you feeling devastated. Sometimes failing is caused by our own actions. Sometimes it’s caused by the actions of others or circumstances out of our control. Despite the effort or energy we put into our endeavor, it just doesn’t seem to right itself and we end up ejected out the other side. No matter how it happens, failure shakes at the core of your identity and we are left with the aftermath to sift through and deal with.
I have personally have been fired from several jobs and failed several business. I’ve been married twice and divorced once. I’ve experienced eviction, bankruptcy and repossession and I can tell you that all of these situation leave a person standing in the dumbfounding gap between what-I-had and what-I-have-no-longer.
The big question that constantly rings in my ears is ‘who am I?’. If I am left without any of the landmarks of a life-well-lived then what kind of life do I have? It certainly isn’t the life that I was planning for and working towards. The ideas of raising a family and building a life with my first wife disappeared with divorce. Building my value through the things I can buy are no longer reachable once the job that afforded them is gone. The plans for the front yard and building a community of neighbors disappeared as quickly as the house did.
The worst thing about failure is that I can’t drink, smoke or fuck my way out of it. Hell, I can’t even climb out of it. After all, in this life, we all start out in a hole and now that I’ve failed at something, I’m only deeper in that same hole. No amount of distraction or sought-after-salvation can change that fact. That’s the reason why we all started grasping for the bigger house, nicer cars and the better job in the first place; to fill the hole in our lives that never fills.
The only way out of this hole is through the bottom. You’ve got to touch ground before you can walk out. I’ve tried to scramble to the top but no matter how much shit I put under my feet, the top just gets father away. So, let’s try something different. I’ve touched bottom before but only for a moment; in the midst of divorce or loss in my past. Those moments were peaceful and I found a sense of serenity with myself. However, life moved on and so did I and I began to try and fill the void again. This time I’m going to try something different. I’m going to act on the lessons I’ve already learned from failure.
The first lesson is not to be ashamed of failing. Failure doesn’t have to be the shame ridden wallowing that it so often is. I’ve been there and it doesn’t accomplish anything. Attitudes and perspectives that include, ‘I’m fucked’ or ‘my life is ruined’ only keep people in one place; stuck. Sometimes for a very long time. What I’m talking about is moving in a direction. In a direction that is the opposite of what we think it should be: Down.
The second lesson is to identify the patterns. I can see the clear patterns of behavior that got me to this place. I’ve got an ego. We all do. This ego acts as the lens between me and the way I see the world. There are some flaws in that lens. For instance, I consistently take the lead when it’s not mine to take. I have a belief that I’m destined for a future purpose rather than living out my purpose daily. I limit my perceived risk by taking control. I avoid my feelings of hurt and pain by masking them with anger. My self-inventory is long.
The third lesson is to take accountability. I’m going to try to take accountability in all consequences of my life; even those that don’t seem to be my doing. Consequences are the outcomes of choices that I or others have made that affect my life. Every choice has an outcome and they stack on top of each other until they become a pattern. Sometimes those consequences are fruitful and inspire others. Sometimes those consequences are painful and they sever relationships.
Whether it’s my choices or someone else’s that directly or indirectly resulted in painful outcomes is irrelevant. To try and make a distinction between direct or indirect consequences means that blame must be involved. To see things through blame is to not be honest with myself. For instance, if I get into a car and drive a mile down the road and a drunk driver hits me, there are two different questions I can ask myself. The first is who is accountable? The alternative question is who is to blame?
If I choose to seek my answers in the question of who is to blame than I become a victim of my circumstances. I’m choosing a life that is at the whim or will of some drunk fool’s decision get behind the wheel of a car. Yes, he is accountability but so am I. If I choose accountability, I’m giving myself a chance for self-exploration and that is the only way to the bottom. I ask myself, who is accountable to this accident, then I can take a self-inventory of the circumstances that lead up to it. 1) I choose to get into my car. 2) This other driver chose to drive drunk. 3) those two choice collided and hurt people.
The fourth lesson is to take responsibility. I am choosing to be accountable for getting into the car therefore I am taking responsibility for how I responded to the situation. To choose my response (response-ability) allows me to be free of the self-imposed burden of blame and victimization. I can now be empowered to move on with my life with whatever pieces I have left; to rebuild. The same is true with being fired, losing a business, losing a house or losing a spouse. It’s painful! It feels like an awful weight bearing down on you but the question is, how will you respond?
I am accountable for the choices I made in getting myself fired. I choose to use credit. I choose an interest only loan. I choose to start a business. I choose to get married and I choose who I married. Once I take accountability for my choices, I’m free to make different choices. That wouldn’t be the case if I choose blame. Blame locks me into only seeing someone else’s choice. It focuses me on what they did to make this situation happen. Without close examination of my own choices I can never move forward with my life. I can never see things from a different perspective. I will repeat my mistakes because I have not allowed myself to become aware of the mechanisms in my decision making processes that lead me to these results.
It’s not easy. It hurts. Everyday it hurts. It’s pain that I’m feeling right now. I am so tempted to bury this feeling. I was fired from my job 5 days ago. This was my first job after closing my business a year ago. In the wake of that, I lost my home and most of what I owned. Now I’ve got too much time on my hands. My days are spent toiling to be productive in a void of unproductivity . I could fill them with TV or surfing the internet. That’s easy to do. I could try and fill the void with drinking or smoking to ease my mind. I’ve tried it before and it only makes the hole feel deeper. This time, I’m going to try and learn from the lessons that I’ve had to endure before. I’m going to try and take an honest look at this emptiness below my feet and see if I can reach the bottom. It’s down there somewhere.