This will change your perspective on failure

change your perspective on failure

I realize that it’s rather presumptuous of me to say that this post will change the way you look at failure. I say this with some level of confidence because it really helped me. The content below is taken from an article in the Oprah Magazine. This is 1 of 2 articles that I’ve saved. I have moved many times from country to country, and state to state, but these articles have stayed with me because I have found so much value in them. I hope they can do for you what they did for me.

This particular article is written from the perspective of Mark Shuttleworth–the first African in space. 

Mark Shuttleworth's greatest epiphany

“Wherever I look, I see an extraordinary tapestry of magic at work, not only in my life but also in the lives of everyone I meet. I have no explanation or label for the conviction. I don’t try to fit it into any textbook philosophy or religion, and I don’t try to extrapolate any “deep” fundamental conclusions. I simply draw courage and comfort from the knowledge that my life is in good hands.

Over a period of time, through a series of revelations, I have learned to identify and recognize astonishing patterns, coincidences and connections in my life. Take the time when, all set to study physics and mathematics, I fell hopelessly in love just before starting university and ended up in business school, where she was, instead.

Up till that point, I had been terrified of business school because I thought I had no aptitude for it at all. Most of my success in high school had come via “hard science” and I was certain I’d be worse than useless doing what amounts to a social studies course. For the universe to get me there would require an extraordinary amount of maneuvering. And yet that’s pretty much what happened. As it turned out, the romance didn’t last, but am I ever grateful now for the way things turned out!

Think about the best things that ever happened to you. How did you meet your partner? How did you come to the job or hobby or dream that inspires you every day? How did you really move into each of the major phases in your life?

When I think of events that seemed to be major setbacks at the time they happened, hindsight reveals to me a link between those stumbling blocks and subsequent joys. While you’re “in the moment”, a major setback can be devastating. Plans fall apart, and you find yourself questioning everything. “Why me?” or just “why?”

And then serendipity goes on to unfold unexpectedly wonderful things.

I remember getting fired from a consulting job in the last year of university. At the time, I was devastated, but the experience firmed my resolve to start a business of my own. Similarly, I was stunned when I failed to win a scholarship to study at Oxford. I had no job lined up, no Plan B. But from that setback came the radical plan to start a company in the field of Internet security.

The best things in life (and the worse!) are often completely accidental. But does it make sense to stop working towards your dreams simply because providence plays such a big role? Not at all. For me, serendipity is most powerful for people who are open to unexpected possibilities while working toward passionate goals.

Ultimately, actions bring opportunity, even if it isn’t the opportunity we were expecting. Sitting on your bum waiting for serendipity isn’t likely to bring dividends. But recognizing it does mean that you can let go of the intense attachment you have for a particular outcome. Sometimes I work really hard to achieve a certain goal and it doesn’t happen. But so what! There’s a bigger plan at work – I learn something, grasp a new opportunity, meet someone…

I love those moments when things come into focus, when the outcome finally clearly reveals why something happened as it did. I now find myself growing less and less intense about the “big issues” in life, because I have faith that things always work out as they should. I also find myself worrying less about the unknown.

The biggest disasters are unpredictable anyway, and – with time – even the deepest wounds can heal into a scare signifying your survival.

Having been so fortunate early in life, I went through a period of obsessing about failure, not wanting to lose the momentum I’d acquired so unexpectedly. Now, whenever life kicks me in the teeth, I know that there will be a silver lining even if it isn’t obvious at the time.

Seen in this light, every failure is as valuable as a success. Suddenly, failure can be a good thing.

I’m willing to take bigger risks and take on bolder projects because I’m less concerned with succeeding than with discovering the amazing and unexpected things they might lead to. It’s actually become something of a game, trying to spot the upside in the bad news.

When I’m lucky enough to meet interesting new people from different walks of life, I’m curious as to whether or not they too see patterns and connections in their lives and whether they feel the gentle hand of serendipity nudging and tweaking their life’s direction. I’m reassured to find that more and more people I meet are conscious of the same sense of harmony in the universe.

Our lives really are in good hands.”

From one friend to another

What I take from this article, and why I’ve saved it for so many years, is that we shouldn’t get too worked up when things don’t go the way we want. The universe has bigger, better plans for us–we just can’t see it yet. We are taking a narrow view, while the universe has the aerial view. 

From time to time, things go sideways for me, but after years of practice, I do not fret anymore. I tell myself “everything is always working out for my highest good,” “the universe is rigged in my favor,” etc. This calms me down and it allows me to look for the silver lining, instead of wasting precious energy on something I can’t change.

Two articles have travelled with me across countries and states. This is one, the other is titled: This will change your perspective on rejection




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