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As a society, we are enamoured of success, and try to run as far as possible from failure. But can we not embrace our failures, which are, after all, part of our journey of life? Let us think about it in this new year.
Recently Google’s CEO and one of India’s best exports to the Silicon Valley, Sundar Pichai was part of an interactive Q & A session with students at Delhi’s prestigious college SRCC. Out of the many interesting things he spoke about (including the possibility of the next Android version named after an Indian sweet!), one idea stuck a chord with me. Like all great visionaries and highly successful leaders, he spoke about following one’s dreams and being true to oneself and their passion, but he also spoke about a dreaded word in most of our dictionaries-FAILURE. He spoke about failed entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley, wearing their failure and the failure of their start up ventures, as ‘badges of honor’ on their sleeves. It seems such a novel idea, turning something which is, in general, considered negative, to such a wonderful and positive thing.
I feel it is especially very important for a country and society like ours to somewhat embrace the idea of failure. From childhood, the idea of ‘success’ in various forms is fed into our heads. Topping the class, getting more marks in board exams than the neighbour’s child, getting a good professional degree in a field like Engineering or Medicine and having a high earning job, are all seen as indicators of success. Clearing the IIMs or the IAS exams, is the epitome of success in our society. We as a society are very competitive and even though it has resulted in many Indians having an inherent academic advantage as compared to their global counterparts, it has also created in the majority of Indians a very deep rooted fear about failure and the need to ‘succeed in all spheres of life’, especially in the eyes of society and parents and relatives and friends. This fear of failure has become so deep rooted that most of us have forgotten how to take risks and prefer instead to take the safest and easiest path.
Other than in academics, failure in any other field is seen either as something to be shunned or pitied. A ‘failed’ marriage, failure to bear children, failure to hold onto a steady paying job (however uninspiring and hateful it may be) are considered as the ultimate catastrophes in life. Even some of the most creative people in the country are not spared the torture and thus every Friday at the Box Office, a film is cast as a ‘success’ or ‘failure’, blatantly ignoring the painstaking creative efforts of the cast and directors and all those who were part of it.
And boy, do we love to celebrate our ‘successes’! From the prospective IAS grooms whose families consider it their right to ask for dowries upwards of one crore, to the parents who love boasting about their children living an exciting life in USA or Europe. While there is nothing wrong with recognizing and feeling proud about the achievements of our dear ones, the ability to ignore or turn our noses against someone who has tried and failed, is discomforting. It creates an atmosphere of insecurity, with most people feeling they will not be ‘accepted’ if they fail. Thus the risk taking ability and thoughts of experimentation and innovation go out of the window, replaced by a fragile and temporary but somewhat comforting illusion (or in many cases disillusion) of success.
So how do we break out of this mould? While on paper it seems easy to talk about ideas like taking failure in ones stride, failure being the teacher etc, its not easy to fail. And even tougher to accept the failure and carry on. Ever noticed how facebook and instagram feeds from friends are always about acquiring the latest Iphone, holidays to the most exotic places, the fancy car from the last bonus. Does anyone ever talk about the days and nights that went laboring to earn those material things, or the days when they struggled to get out of bed and wished they didn’t have to face office or their boss! (and I guess it happens with everyone). NO because as a society we are more prone and intrinsically conditioned to share our ‘happiness and successes’ rather than share events and moments in life that have not gone our way. And an increasingly narcissistic society fuels and celebrates this idea of ‘success’, allowing only a few bold ones to give themselves a chance to try and not worry if they fail in the process.
So maybe as a new year resolution I will try and not be so bogged down by this ‘success’ and failure. They are relative terms anyway. Once we free ourselves from the shackles of this fear of failure we will be able to think clearly, do what we love and enjoy the process. We can consider each failure as a stepping stone to bigger things in life and be thankful and wiser for the experience. We can take inspiration from real life heroes like J K Rowling, Michael Jordan, Henry Ford etc, who have tasted success only after many failures, rather than getting intimated by a few, mostly media fabricated stories about 25 year olds tasting instant success with their start ups or graduates straight out of college earning fat paychecks. As someone has very rightly said, life is ultimately not about the destination, it is about the journey instead.
Let us rather be ‘proud failures’ than ‘unwilling successes’!
Image source: success failure street signs by Shutterstock.
A techie during day time and a dreamer , writer , traveller , bookworm otherwise
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