I’m a failure.
I never expected anything different. All is just as I have always envisioned. Some things were just destined to be.
Before you start sending those encouraging notes, before you put on your best there–there face, give me a chance to explain.
I’m a failure at being a failure.
“Now,” you say. “Now, you’re just bragging.”
I don’t mean to brag. It is an admission of failure. I say it with contrite intent. I intend it to be an apology.
The magnitude of my ineptness has become clear to me today. The revelation began this morning. I sat down at my desk in the music store and, as I frequently do, re-read what I had posted last night for my friends–those who are so inclined–to peruse and digest. The further I read, the less I liked what I had written. I became convinced that no one would think it worthwhile. I assumed that over the span of the day, it would neither garner any attention, nor acquire any indications of approval.
I deleted the entire post.
You didn’t notice, did you? Very few of you had any idea of my failure to produce a good article, since the evidence had disappeared into the ether.
I don’t want to be a failure. Therefore, I will not allow myself to do things that will show me up as one.
The point was driven home again this afternoon as a customer laid the old guitar case on the counter of my music store. Inside the case lay a gorgeous vintage guitar worth thousands of dollars.
“I want you to modify it for me, Paul.” The aging man looked earnestly into my face. “I know you. You’ll take good care of my baby.”
I am torn.
On the one hand, my customer has confidence in my abilities to achieve the task. It is an exhilarating feeling–being aware of the trust that another person places in your skill.
On the other hand, it is a daunting prospect. As I gaze at the beautiful instrument, lying in the case before me, my stomach tightens up and I can’t suppress a tiny shudder. What if I make a mistake? What if my drill slips? What if I butcher up this wonderful old guitar beyond recall?
I may fail.
I’m not well equipped to deal with failure. I’ll sulk. I’ll mope around. I may even lose faith in my ability to do other things I have been doing all of my life. Just the prospect of failure is terrifying.
More and more recently, I find myself telling people, like my friend on the other side of the counter, that I cannot fit their needs into my schedule. Well obviously, all they have to do is to look around them. My business (and life) is stacked high with jobs which are waiting to be done.
But, time is not really the issue, is it?
I simply cannot abide the thought that I may fail. I cannot be a failure.
I have, instead, become a failure at being a failure. If you never attempt the risky undertakings, you cannot fail.
Problem solved! No risk, no failure. Ergo, I will not take risks.
I am safe.
You do see the problem, don’t you? Safe is nice. For awhile. Safe doesn’t raise a ruckus, doesn’t rock any boats. Safe is–well–comfortable. You know, like house slippers. Comfortable.
And, therein lies the problem. House slippers are okay for lying around the house. They even let me shuffle my way into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and a cookie. Okay, maybe a bowl of ice cream, too.
House slippers aren’t very efficient for hiking in, are they? I’m not likely to wear them when I go for a jog, either. The old comfy mules wouldn’t be my choice for riding the highway on a motorcycle, for that matter.
In short, the safe, comfortable house slippers won’t get me anywhere.
Funny. Risk is all around us. Even funnier–we never accomplish anything without taking risks.
Did I say that I wasn’t well equipped for failure? It is not, of course, true.
Did someone say failure is not an option? That also is a lie. If we live, we will undoubtedly experience failures. It is an option. In fact, it is a certainty.
But, what’s not an option is sitting safely on the couch, never really living. What’s not an option is lying about, defeated by one failure, when success is just as likely to be the result the next time we attempt the deed.
For, in achieving what we call safety, comfort, we really place ourselves in danger of the greatest failure we will face individually and corporately.
That danger is complacency. Achieving nothing. And, as certain as I once thought myself that I wasn’t equipped for failure, I am that much more certain our Creator did not design us to sit in complacency and safety, doing nothing.
I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to waste the short time I have left on this planet. I don’t want to look back and see nothing of note that has been accomplished.
Life is risky. Life is uncertain.
There is much to be lost, but there is more to be gained.
Time to start moving again.
I think I’ll see what I can do with that guitar.
There may be other tasks needing our attention, as well.
Got your walking shoes on?
“Tis dangerous to take a cold, to sleep, to drink; but I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.”
(from Henry IV, part 1 ~ William Shakespeare ~ English poet/playwright ~ 1564-1616)
“He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap…In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”
(Ecclesiastes 11:4, 6 ~ ESV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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