Musings

Being Content with Failure

Australian magpie sitting with contentment
The Alchemist: “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
Boy: “I’m not afraid of failing. It’s just that I don’t know how to turn myself into the wind.”
from The Alchemist

A magpie makes a warbling sound up in the tree. It’s early morning and the birds are singing their dawn song as usual.

I wonder what they’re saying? Are they commenting on what a beautiful day it is? The red sky signalling a warning for sailors? Or perhaps they’re discussing how they’re going to go about getting food for the day, or what tree they’re going to lounge around in.

It’s fun to wonder.

Looking down at my laptop screen, I see the page stats for a recent article. 30 views. I feel despair as my evaluation ranks this number low. Very low.

This low evaluation leads to a label: failure. Not a failure of me as an individual, importantly, but a failure of a project or endeavour.

Failure is just another evaluation. Failure and success, like right and wrong, are purely judgements, subject to the whims of the person judging.

30 views might, in some contexts, seem like a success. If the previous average had been 1, then 30 seems great all of a sudden. That’s a 3,000% increase!

So really it depends on how you look at it. How you look at things is what affects your mood, not the actual situation.

It’s not the 30 views that are causing despair. It’s my perception that 30 views is bad which colours my emotional state.

Herein lies a seemingly fundamental conflict with this way of thinking. How can I achieve anything if I’m content with what others might view as a “failure”? Where is my motivation for achievement?

To resolve this potential paradox, I think requires a mindset shift from repulsive to attractive thinking. This is not a reference or discussion of the law of attraction.

Having the attitude that “30 views is bad, I want to get more” is an example of the repulsive model of thinking. In order to achieve your goal, you’re moving away from what you don’t want. You’re motivated by the negative.

It’s a perfectly legitimate way of achieving things, but often it leads you feeling irritated, depressed and considering yourself inferior until you reach some point.

Attractive thinking is about moving toward your goal or objective. It means you don’t have to be dissatisfied with where you are.

Your motivation is to achieve a certain goal or have a certain impact. The result is that every small victory is celebrated with positive emotions as you move toward some objective.

In this way, there’s no conflict. I can simultaneously be content with 30 views and be moving toward getting more.

Exactly get more views, though, is a separate discussion.

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