One of my favorite blogs is The Dihedral. It’s a group of young(er than me) climbers who individually and collectively post from time to time. Today Casen, one of the writers, gave five steps for dealing with utter failure. While I’m sure he’s failed at something sometime, based on my experience a lot of what he offers as examples are just bad luck. BUT, his five steps are right on.

I commented that I am a great success at failure. He said he’d like to be in a failing contest with me. I mentioned I have a head start…

The post made me think about failure in my life and how I’ve dealt with it. I started failing subjects in school in third grade (arithmetic). I failed spelling (“belief” was a bitch of a word for me then…) Later in my life I failed courses in my major (Shakespeare, Critical Writing), courses outside my major (20th Century Philosophy — the failure there was that I didn’t DROP it before the deadline), Attic Greek (I thought when the prof called us “dolts” after the midterm he was talking to me; he wasn’t) French (I accidentally wrote the dictation in Spanish though the teacher spoke French; she threw me out)… I’ve failed at two marriages and numerous (basically all of my) significant romantic relationships. I failed at getting any of my books published conventionally. I fail constantly at proofreading. I failed ever to get tenure, even after several attempts and everything “going for me.” I failed the oral Foreign Service Exam (couldn’t think of an American film when asked; came up with a French one). I failed to make the right choice between marriage and remaining in China. I chose the marriage; see above. This isn’t even the complete list.

Looking back on all this failure it seems to me that REAL failure is not trying (when you want to try) and giving up without all the facts. Those are the failures. That’s failing. That’s utter failure. In those events in my life, I can find no redemption. My Greek prof collared me a year after I failed his class and said, “What happened to you?”

I said, “I figured if I failed the midterm, I wouldn’t pass the class anyway. So I…”

“Quit? You shouldn’t have. You were one of the two who passed that exam.”

Kick in the groin, that one. That’s failure.

I love this song, BTW

7 thoughts on “Failure

  1. Great post. Using your failure to reevaluate your life isn’t a half-bad way to look at things. The song is catchy, the video was a bit creepy. I need to try to fail more is what I took from all of the above.

    • There’s a cute video of these guys singing with a high school class — it’s awesome, but I couldn’t find it. I figured if I were going to excel at failure I should at least learn from it 😉

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