Why failing is (kind of) a good thing

failingThey say you can’t beat a man who doesn’t give up.

The first piece of writing I ever wrote was rubbish. And I kept on adding more rubbish. Then I wrote something else. And then someone said I was a retard. And I wanted to prove them wrong.

I’ve failed time and time again. In all aspects of life.

The first novel I self-published sold 4 copies in 4 months. It got a single 2 star review on Goodreads, and then I unpublished the damn thing.

And yet I didn’t give up.

The thing is, if you live your life the way you want it, sooner or later, you’ll fail at something. You’ll fall, and it’s of utmost importance that the fall doesn’t break you.

Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, or an hour or a day, or even a year. But eventually, it will subside. And something else takes its place. If I quit, however, it will last forever. – Eric Thomas

The first time you fail, it’s painful. It feels as if you’re never going to regain trust. It’s as if some part of you just went missing. And you might spend an awful lot of time searching for it.

We never truly lose hope, but we do lose strength and courage. And without them, hope is just like taking painkillers to fight off an infection. It takes away the pain, but it doesn’t fix anything.

When that happens, we don’t expect to rise up again. We just hope for it, we just dream for an invisible hand to pick us up.

And yet…

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. – Confucius

Making art is failing. Time and time again, we reach for something we don’t even know exists, and time and time again, we get closer and closer to reaching it… but we never do.

So I fail quite often. And yet I don’t give up. I keep on writing, more and more, and I add more failures on top of the previous ones.

The funny thing is that those failures become a ladder you can use to climb your way to what dream you want to make come true.

Everything I am, everything I have, and everything I write is just the culmination of years and years of failing. So, if there’s anything worthy of appreciation in me, it’s just that: I’ve failed so many times that I’ve become somewhat good at something.

Odds are that I live thousands and thousands of miles away from you. We’ve never met, and most likely never will, and the truth is that you can read what I write simply because eight years ago I was stupid enough to think writing was easy. When I was proved wrong, I didn’t give up.

I try to end my posts with a strong line. Tonight I’m just gonna quote Winston Churchill: If you’re going through hell, keep going.

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130 thoughts on “Why failing is (kind of) a good thing

  1. This post is excellent. I quit writing 10 years ago because of one particularly harsh critic in my life. I just now am pulling myself back up and working up the courage to prove them wrong. I know everything I write isn’t going to be perfect, or even good. I’m ready to let myself fail again. This was just a great read today. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A friend of mine recently told me “I failed! I was dropped from a great height, yet I didn’t break. So I’m not scared of falling or failing again, because I’m strong enough to land and not die.”
    It was about writing, not falling in physicality. But what you say has such significance, keep on keeping on. And I love that Churchill quote btw :)

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    • Well, most of the times we land on our feet. Life goes on, no matter what. But we do panic, we do feel that we won’t recover. Hope is a hell of a drug, and when we lose hope, it does feel that nothing makes sense.

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  3. On a day when I received a final rejection from an agent I’ve been working with for a year and a half, I needed to read this post. Thank you so much

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  4. Great post! My failures have often taught me most valuable lessons in life, kept me humble, more empathetic to others, and yes taught me to keep picking my head up of the floor and move forward. I had to share this on FB…thanks for the great read ;-)

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  5. I do not know if you belong to Ted but they published a video of JK Rowling giving a Harvard’s Commencement Address. She said the same words. She went one step further when she said until you fail you cannot appreciate your success. This is coming from the richest woman in the UK who when she wrote the Potter series, which no one wanted to publish, was one step away from the welfare with an infant.

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    • Yes, I know that speech. The thing is, ambition often comes from the realization that you’ve failed far too many times, that you’ve reached rock bottom and there’s no where to go but up. At the same time, the experience of being down is what motivates you to keep going up, in the hope that you won’t go down again.

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      • Well said. It’s really very encouraging to read this post. I’m glad that someone like you has shown interest in a blog like mine, as it’s in very nascent stage. But it seems quite obvious on other hand, as the message in this post clearly supports the very cause of continuous trying and never quitting in the face of failure. Liked this very much!

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  6. Very insightful and inspiring. I’ve been in quite the funk lately. I’m slogging through my first draft (the first I’ve ever completed) and it’s a real poop salad. I’m doing alright at keeping my optimism despite the poor writing that came out of my head, but it’s just such a delicate frame of mind to be in – believing that you are capable of more despite hours and hours of reviewing a big pile of mistakes on paper. I’m gonna come back to this post and read it again should the day come that I feel like rolling over and giving up.

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    • Not even On the Road by Jack Kerouac, the famous Beat writer who was known for his spontaneous prose, was published after the first draft, even though it was promoted as though it were. Writing is definitely an art of retakes, redoes and rewrites.

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  7. Do you mind if I reblog this? I feel as though many my friends ( the few who do read my blog) would so appreciate this. I also appreciate this post I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to my writing. I have accepted that fact, but what scares me the most is time. I have this constant nagging voice in the back of my head that tells me you “you don’t have enough time before you get it right.” I know must of it comes from that fear of failing, but most of it also of it comes from feeling as though I won’t get to make that small impact, that thing that ignites others to “do” something. I know I have a lot to learn and to read this post gave me comfort in the accepting my failings that will soon come and once I have succeed the joy is just as sweet.
    Thank You.

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  8. it is a wonderful thing that you keep writing! I have always believed in what I seen one day,”He who writes for himself, writes for an eternal audience!”

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    • Succinctly put. I follow that ideal myself. It’s not about the market. It’s about putting down in words what is in one’s soul.

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  9. Hello Cristian,

    I am sure you know of Thomas Alva Edison but I just love some of the wonderful gems he uttered and had to state them here. He had vision that others considered lunacy. He had passion that changed the world. In response to being asked how many failed attempts he had experienced while trying to invent the incandescent light bulb, he said,

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work!” (Thomas A. Edison)

    While being a writer may be worlds away from being a scientist they are both fueled by the same drive or passion. We want to create something worthwhile. We want to contribute something of significance to the world. As you stated in one of your posts, we desire to create a legacy. Failure will happen and it will occur often but each instance is an opportunity to learn something we had not previously possessed. We write because we love the written word and its ability to transcend cultures, races, genders, and even time. When you own this passion you will continue to create regardless of whether someone else thinks it is good enough to buy. Certainly, I agree, that it would be lovely to get paid for our writings and that is the eventual goal for most, if not all, of us.

    However, when I sit before the screen and my fingers rest gingerly atop the keys I know the ideas will overflow until they begin to take shape.I have carried and nurtured this pattern of thoughts until arriving at this point in time in which I am ready to share them. The ideas have been with me for years and it has grown deeper and more complex with each experience. Now, that my “research” is finished I vow not to let anything to stop me from seeing its completion. As my fingers gently rest atop the well worn keys, my ideas taste the first breath of life. Now, I see not one story but a hundred or better each waiting for the moment they become tangible.The stories will morph many times over as I tweak this and that until I arrive at that glorious moment where I like it. I understand the power of the written word. Therefore, I know that another will come across something I wrote and it will make them think and feel. And that is the moment where change is possible.

    “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. ” ( Thomas A. Edison)

    You have to decide why you have chosen to write and then pursue that with every fiber of your being.

    Like

    • You can write for a lot of different reasons. Most writers do that throughout their careers. But, ultimately, when you write… and you feel real good about it, you kind of forget the reason, you forget about the audience, you forget about getting paid and stuff like that. You just write. You don’t think too much about it. You write, write, write, because you can’t help yourself.

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      • Exactly. I don’t know why I keep writing short stories for my blog, because I don’t get paid and not that many people read them anyway. But I still do. (sorry for butting in, your comment just speaks to me)

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  10. Cristian, I just want to say thank you for writing this post. You have no idea what a big deal it is that you never gave up. I’m going through a hard time with something right now, and just a few hours ago, I prayed that God would help me to keep going and to keep trusting. And here now I read your post and it is perfect. You may have unpublished a book at one point, but I can tell you that this post was perfectly written to meet my need today. I believe things happen for a reason and that God uses all things together for good. So thank you for never giving up, and being just what I needed today. God bless.

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  11. I love this! I actually just posted almost the exact same thing yesterday, but with an example of my newly walking son! It is so true, we cannot give up.

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  12. There are times our creations are not up to par to what could be considered a masterpiece. Other times it is shunned by the current generation, but embraced by later progeny. In the end, however, even if the weight of failure may seem overwhelming, it is worth climbing that ladder.

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  13. Absolutely. Because the only way out of hell is forward; back isn’t an option. For me, failure is about the most solid way I learn. Any other way, it may or may not stick, but falling on my face… I learn from that.

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  14. This is awesome! Thanks for the willingness to be transparent and encourage the rest of us. Writing is not just about being great; it’s also about being authentic. It’s about staying sane and processing life. Cheers to you! (and all of us who keep getting back up)

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  15. “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm.” This one by Churchill is good too! You can’t get stronger and better without falling a few times and getting back up. Great post!

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  16. You are quite right. I must add you’ve inspired me to continue on with my writing, as well as a few other things. Thank you for this, it is just what I needed to read right now. I am new to this site, as well as blogging. I enjoy your blog and I think you are a very talented writer, I am glad you didn’t give up, for if you did we wouldn’t have this inspirational boost, as well as encouragement, that so many of us need. You are a very talented writer, I am grateful for your posts.

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  17. First, let me start by saying thank you for sharing, it was really an exceptional piece. What captured my attention the most was the honesty in your writing that I believe many would appreciate. In addition, it is commendable that you kept trying while most would have taken easy routes you kept at what you liked. Sometimes, even if you don’t think you need it, a motivational piece such as this, encourages you to try harder. Thanks again.

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  18. You’re an interesting blogger. I daresay I will think the same of your books when I allow myself to purchase anything non-engineering related when my exams will be over in June. Keep writing!

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  19. Very inspiring! indeed, success is never a guarantee even if you try a hundred times, but if we like what we’re doing, then it doesn’t matter if we fail a million times… And I am so happy to read this because most inspiration stuffs only tells you to try and try until you succeed but the advise just makes me feel even more frustrated when I can’t succeed… =)

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  20. Gorgeously written post and inspirational. I especially like the vision of the ladder that you are creating from past failures. This is definitely one I will be referencing. Thank you….

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  21. Great post and perfectly written. Failure is such a necessary part of life. It’s practically inescapable. I was terrified of failing for most of my life, but when I listened to Neil Gaiman’s commencement address at U of the Arts, my understanding of failure changed. He said, “If you fail it means you’re out there doing something.” And I want to be out there doing things. Reading posts like yours helps, too! Thanks.

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  22. Exactly what I’m going though right now. Just not with the arts but in life. I’ve been knocked down and fighting for my life. It’s not the first time but hopefully the last. In this failure, I’ve learnt so many things that will allow me to not make the same mistakes next time. Keep writing. You’re good at it.

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  23. I really enjoyed this post. It’s encouraging and a reminder to never give up no matter what. The quote by Buddha that you used is one of my favorite quotations. Good luck with all of your future endeavors. :)

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  24. You know, while I was reading this, somehow, (and please, don’t ask me how, because I don’t know) I kept finding myself over and over and over again returning to the thought of Icarus and Daedalus. To put it blankly, in a way, Daedalus’ most vital invention failed when Icarus soared. But in the essence of the idea that you’ve struck home in this blog, Icarus’ fall was one of the most powerful events in mythological history. It’s simply beautiful. Because, (and yes, I am going to very shamefully quote my own blog here) it is better to have soared into the sunsets of our dreams with the winds at our backs and the lights in our eyes than to have never once tasted the sunsets at all. Icarus gave up his life in order to feel that one, powerful second of unimaginable euphoria. I guess my message to this blog is, and to all the readers who’ve braved through this reply, falling is the most beautiful event that any human could ever undertake. Don’t forget that.
    P.s. Seriously enjoyed this post. It was very inspiring.

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    • Thank you for your comment. It’s just brilliant. Every failure is a neccesary sacrifice. And even if we don’t rise again, just trying is enough. In life and art and love, sometimes just trying is the most you can do.

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  25. Bravo! As a reader I am quite grateful for the failures that led to so much eloquence. One of the number one thing I try to teach is that it is absolutely ok to fail and keep going.The first couple of years of doing something make us acutely aware of our faults, but it can be a grand adventure when we don’t see every stumble as a sign from on high of our unworthiness. I hope that if they can figure this out when their 12 it will save them of some of the fetal position cover cave time I had in my mid-twenties ;-)

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  26. Nice one! I felt encouraged that someone like you has shown interest in my blog! The manner, in which you have expressed the whole idea, really inspired me to continue with my rekindled passion of writing that was lost long back!

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  27. the last line was powerful one. Infact thimgs are never easy. I remember an advertisement which said,”Jo haath me aa jaye wo kya large (that which just comes in your hands is ofcourse not large enough)” one should keep trying for bigger things and such things do not come easily. Be ready for sacrifices and losses. Pain is temporary, pride is permanent

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  28. Cristian,
    I appreciate your candor in this post. I also appreciate the comments you received. So many people, especially writers (myself included), appear to feel a connection to you.
    I am touched.
    Your newest follower.

    Like

  29. Thanks for a great post. Lots in educational literature at the moment about need to teach students to have ‘grit’ – your post chimes as it explains that if it’s worth doing, it’ll probably need more than one attempt to do it well, and we should expect some failure along the way.

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  30. I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to really comment on such a simple aspect of life: failing. I enjoy to see a writer such as yourself to take something that is often viewed as a negative aspect, and turning it into a positive aspect.

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  31. I really love how simple and common sense this entry is. Sometimes you forgot to just breathe and this helped me take that breath. Sometimes you forget the most obvious advice; sometimes you can’t tell yourself because you’re inside the box. You need perspective. Thank you for the perspective.

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  32. Great post. I think we often have a skewed understanding of what success really is. It is not a singular event, but rather a process. Success is continuing to move forward toward something that is worthwhile and important to us, even when things don’t always go the way we imagine they will.

    “Genius is only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it; so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success? A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed a hopeless failure may turn into a glorious success. … There is no defeat except within, no really insurmountable barrier save one’s own inherent weakness of purpose” (author unknown, Second Encyclopedia, ed. Jacob M. Brand, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1957, p. 152).

    Thanks for persevering in the face of “failure” :)

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  33. This post is exactly why I blog today. I am no writer, I stopped taking literature from high school. The posts I make are critiqued with bad grammar and what not, when I thought I worked hard to perfect it. That just means the next one I will have to work harder. I posted my quote today that inspires me on my blog. Thank you for stopping by earlier, by the way so I’m sure you saw it. Thank you for this post of keep on keeping on.

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  34. You know, I shared some work on facebook today; and, I could hear a friend’s voice in my head very clearly say FAIL! I know that I’ve grown up as a writer because my response was to smirk to myself and refocus on getting my work out on my blog sites. Your message is well thought out and inspirational to those of us who write for a living. Keep it up!

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  35. This is great post and I agree with you all in these thoughts. I hope you don’t mind, I reblogged your post for my followers, Thank you, angels, muses and the sun be with you always, love, nia

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  36. Awesome post!!! I really love the last line. I, myself, have failed so often in life. I was literally going through a period of what seemed like me constantly going through hell. It was because I stopped believing in myself and gave up. I felt like no one believe in me and what I was trying to accomplish including my spouse. Although I still feel this way about the people in my life, I have realized that it only takes me believing in me to accomplish my goals. I had to stop waiting for the approval of others.

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  37. This is a wonderful post! Like everyone else has been saying, it’s inspiring. It’s a long, hard road for anyone who is truly serious about something. Here’s to not giving up!

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  38. Your post is inspiring, I’ve had it tough at work, sometimes you just want to curl up into a tiny ball and cry, but you have to be determined to live another day and go on fighting.

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  39. Brilliant. I consider myself a recovering perfectionist who slips back into those tendencies more often than I care to admit. I used to pride myself on my perfectionism, but over the years, I’ve realized how it is nothing more than a self-imposed prison. There is NO room for failure in perfectionism. None. And therefore no room to learn and grow, I’m working on it – I still have rough days, but at least I’m now aware. Great insightful post. I really appreciate your perspective.

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  40. Totally agree. Well said. Loosely translated, “Focus on the task, not the result” is the teaching from one of the great Indian epics called Mahabharat, as the task is in your control, whereas the result is the outcome of your effort plus a lot of external influences.

    Like

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