Progress Via Failure

When I started this project, SaftyThird, I was focused on delving into the fringes of our society and our individual lives, the places where the profound lessons hide and the most fulfilling experiences wait, but that many are too afraid to explore and find. We instead employ a margin of safety that serves as an adequate precaution from potential disaster, while limiting the potential for unlimited personal progress. The path forward is usually hindered by mental blocks rather than physical potential, because when we dare to dream and have the courage to act, human history shows time and time again that we achieve the “impossible.”

Sitting around a campfire at South Carlsbad State Beach, Cooper joked with me amidst a deep existential conversation, “We work 12 hours a day so that some day we can become a boss and work 16 hours a day.” Campfire talk. I can’t count how many people I know, or have talked to over the years have dedicated their lives to filling a role in society, putting happiness to the wayside while they establish some foundation that will serve them in a future that’s completely unknown. They justify being safe because risk provides an insecure future, but doesn’t that work both ways? Isn’t tomorrow just as unpredictable whether you live life by a whim or have a conservative investment portfolio?

Our conversation turned to education, and about how the detrimental trend to secure skills for a career now precedes the value of a quality education. Rather than think critically about things, and consider higher understanding of ourselves and how we can make a better world, it’s easier and more comfortable to assume a role, and to just accept that this is what life is, even if that world is destructive and ineffective, and that society built upon broken promises and dead values. We need something to grab onto, something we assume is rigid, something we can believe in, even if it’s a lie.

I can’t trash talk that way of life. I’m often just as enthralled with it as anyone else. I have moments where I’m able to admit to myself that my life has no purpose, and that I’m totally miserable. There are so many things I’ve always wanted to do, but I’ve been too scared to try, because, well, because of everything. What if they don’t like me? What if I’m not good? Eventually the misery overpowered the fear, and I would have been glad to watch my life crumble if the risks I took turned out in total failure. I walked away and let it crumble while I pursued happiness and authenticity.

Taking those first steps into the unknown was the defining moment of my life, even more so than the decision to get clean and sober. Getting clean and sober was the foundation of who I’ve become, but it’s the trials and tribulations since that have truly carved me out into who I am now.

I find in every aspect of my life I am limited by fear. Maybe that fear doesn’t allow me to smile at strangers, or tell people how I really feel. Then I walk around wondering why the world receives me in the manner it does. Maybe it’s being unwilling to take risks and progress in climbing–being afraid to fall, and the same goes for slacking. In the end, that fear limits me from establishing an authentic self, and discovering true happiness. At the base of all our pursuits should be happiness. When we keep that in mind going forth into all our endeavors we’re well on our way to living a passionate and fulfilling life.

We often view failure as a bad thing. We fell short. But maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe it’s not so much that we’ve fallen short, but that we’ve aspired to do something just beyond our reach and it will take multiple attempts to complete. But don’t get discouraged, because we will persevere. That’s what humans do. I think embracing failure is essential for happiness and progress, because when you acknowledge that possible outcome, it relieves the stress of trying to live a perfect life and we can enjoy the randomness of a moment rather than try to control everything.