Epic Fail

As the hero of my own story–and aren’t we all?–I gloss over the failures. In fact, maybe I never acknowledge failures at all.

I certainly never failed! I was foiled. All my sincere and perfectly honorable efforts were foiled by bad guys. I hadn’t failed. I just hadn’t succeeded yet.

Chris bought me this book by a favorite columnist of his:

The Up side of Down: Why failing well is the Key to Success

Mcardle posits the idea that we need failure to get better. It’s impossible to argue. How else do we learn? Shouldn’t we start at one level of ability and get better?

In my senior year of college, I was entranced by a new professor. He had just come on staff, full of nervousness and tenure ambitions. He proudly said that he had a 4.0.

Imagine! A professor bragging to his students about his grades. I looked at him and thought…If you already knew everything you were learning–knew it so well you aced every single class–what the hell is learning about? His progress was a flat line.

He was proud of it. Of course he was! That’s the way the world works.

Well. That’s the way people work. The world has another way of working too.

If I try to lift something heavy, I won’t succeed. I will fail the first time. If I start with something lighter, and keep at it, I will succeed at the heavy thing. It takes failure

It takes trying.

My daughter is watching The Incredibles. A family of super heroes! They have powers! And they have failings.

The marriage, the kids, the relationships, and trying to make their way in the world.


Do you remember how Mr. Incredible fights the robot monster? He throws himself against it.

And it throws him back down.


But Mr. Incredible is Super! He gets back up.

He gets back up. Oh God, Yes, he gets back up!

He keeps trying. He fails far more often than he succeeds. And his family does too. All of them fail and fail and fail and fail.

We know. They know. We all know that they will succeed in the end.

Because they are super.

I am not so super. I do not have the super suit to guarantee my ultimate success.

All I’ve got is little old me. I don’t want to fail. I am not at all sure that the fail will lead to something better.

This one life? That’s all I’ve got. What if I fail at it?

California Adventure amusement park, right next to Disneyland, has a ride called Soaring over California. I love the ride.  A huge screen shows arial views of beautiful California scenes. I first loved to watch the orchards and the mountains of Yosemite.

This! This beautiful state is where I live! From Humboldt to San Bernardino counties, I know this land. Near the very end, some jet planes zoom out over the folded desert.

If my feet could touch the ground, that is the moment when I would leap to my feet and punch the air with a cheer. YES! YES THAT! I WANT THAT!! It never fails to make me cry.

why? why am I crying? do I want to fly a plane?


What then? What is the visceral push and joy? Joy tears. What?

I want that kinetic freedom. Those jets are soaring. They are not holding back. All out, no holding back!

Sometimes I see a chance for something. It seems impossible. What do I think is really going to happen if I try for that?

It won’t work. My efforts will fail.

Why am I crying?

McCardle says failure is not a reason to hold back. It can be as rewarding–even more rewarding!–than success.

At the start of anything, I can’t know how it will turn out. And this is the only life I’ve got. I don’t want to hold back for fear of the result. I am beginning to see that if I have a chance to go all out and not hold back, if I take that chance, I’ve already succeeded. Failure is only a by-product.