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The Power of Failure: How Embracing Challenges Leads to Personal Growth

Or: Oh no, am I a loser?

By Jamie JacksonPublished 4 months ago 7 min read
The Power of Failure: How Embracing Challenges Leads to Personal Growth
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

I’ve failed at everything I’ve ever done. I’m serious when I say everything. Don’t believe me? Here’s a quick list of my failures:

  • I’ve been lifting weights for 20 years and I’m still the scrawniest person I know
  • I played music in bands for two decades and received zero label interest (or public interest for that matter)
  • I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for 5 years and I’m still performing at open mic nights above pubs
  • I did karate for 2 years and I never progressed from white belt, despite going through several gradings
  • I’ve been writing on Medium since 2016 and last month my articles earned me $32
  • I was the only person in my primary school not to get into the school football team – or choir
    • I didn’t get into my chosen secondary school despite my older sister attending (which normally means automatic entry) because I screwed up the interview so badly
  • I performed so poorly in my A-Levels that I was held back a year at school to restart them (or be kicked out)
  • I hate working in the corporate world but I have still been trapped in it for 20 years — and I’m not even a c-suite employee, a director, or a head of department
  • Talking of work, I was the only person out of 4,000 employees not to get a bonus four years in a row (I did the bonus reporting so I knew this to be true)
  • I tried to become an online entrepreneur but it drove me into poverty and, eventually, back behind a corporate desk
  • I’m 45 and I don’t own a house of my own despite the years of wage slavery
  • I’ve been through a divorce
  • I’ve been ghosted by every ex
  • and… I’ve had a YouTube channel for a decade that still can’t be monetised due to lack of followers

Fuck! That’s quite a list. Of course, there are more, smaller things too that I’ve neglected to mention but suffice to say, my life has been an unbridled chain of failure.

So, here’s the big question:

Am I a loser?

Writing that list sure didn’t make me feel like a winner. But what is a loser?

If it’s measured on failing, I’m the world’s biggest loser. Bring on the trumpets and the medal ceremony, it’s time to make this official.

You see, I’ve done nothing but fail —and, in case you’re wondering, I’m still failing. I’m not about to tell you how to make millions, or how I turned my life around and bought a Bugatti (as apparently that means something these days). No, I’m a normie, an average man, an underachiever. Perhaps, even, a loser?

But here’s the thing, here is my get-out clause. I don’t define a loser as someone who fails.

Failure just means you showed up.

Failure is the battle scar earned from fighting.

To me, a loser isn’t defined by failure at all. I’d suggest a loser is someone who:

  • lives to the standards and values of others, not themselves
  • has a life that isn’t their own because they’re scared to step out of line
  • is controlled by someone or something else other than their goals and dreams (addiction or parental expectation are good examples of this)
  • they make no big plans and ask no big questions
  • and they mistake pleasure for happiness, and consequently, are trapped in a comfort zone, too passive to do anything about it

This is what a loser is to me.

Here is a very important paradox to understand:

Losers don’t fail.

That’s correct. Losers never fail.

Losers don’t fail because losers don’t try. Losers don’t show up. Losers are so scared of failing and looking stupid that they build a wall around themselves, away from failure, away from effort, away from discomfort.

It’s this overwhelming fear that keeps the loser in a prison of their own making, and it’s what eventually turns them bitter, cynical and afraid.

When someone tries, when someone decides to “show up”, they learn how to face fear, how to be courageous and how to take control.

Show up enough and you will always win in some capacity.

You either win, or you learn and grow.

Showing up is not easy (in fact, it might be the hardest thing in the world at times), but I ask you, what else are we here to do if not to fulfil our potential?

A loser will deny all of this, of course, and call it self-help snake oil, egotism, daydreaming, or woo-woo nonsense. They’ll dismiss it all as delusion.

I’ve experienced this backlash first-hand from many people in denial about their lives and potential. It is a defence mechanism. Losers have to mock goals and dreams because if they admit to them, then they also have to admit they have work to do, and that they’re scared.

This is why losers play the victim.

It’s far easier to blame someone else for their predicament.

You see it all the time, entire groups of people blaming nebulous concepts such as capitalism, discrimination or the patriarchy for their lack of success.

I know this too well. For years, all I did was play the victim; my childhood was traumatic, my family were working class, my school didn’t give me a chance, I was small and skinny as a kid, you don’t know what it’s like to be me, yadda fucking yadda.

It’s a convenient mindset to play the victim.

“If it wasn’t for society holding me back, I’d be successful!”

“If it wasn’t for X or Y, I’d be someone special.”

“It’s not my fault, it’s theirs.”

It’s a boring conveyor belt of bullshit. A loser refuses to take responsibility. They think it’s someone else’s duty to solve their problems.

We need to accept that life is difficult. For everyone.

There is no easy path and bad things happen to all of us. Sometimes very bad things happen to people and often, none of it is their fault. But – and here it is the pertinent point – it is their responsibility to deal with it.

If it’s in your life and it’s on your plate, it has to be addressed.

Fault and responsibility are not the same thing. You are not what happened to you. But you are what you choose to do next. Losers don’t own their behaviour, they excuse it. They explain it away. Life happens to them, they don’t happen to life.

Writer Carlos Castaneda said:

“There is but one choice to be a warrior or to be ordinary. For an ordinary person, everything is a blessing or a curse. For the warrior, there are only challenges.”

It’s easy to say and hard to do, but we must not be scared of failure. We must embrace it. It’s the greatest teacher and the true accelerator of personal growth.

When I look at all my failures, when I read that list above, I think “Good, I tried.” The more failure that turns up in my life, the more I know I’m trying.

And often, the process of pursuing a goal is the real goal. Who you become striving for more is the gold. If you are scared into inaction, then you are scared of life. And what’s the point of that?

It’s OK to be scared, it’s natural and normal. I’m scared every day. I mean it. I’m scared of absolutely everything.

I’m scared of the big stuff like getting sick or losing my wife or children. Then there is work. I’m scared of screwing up, I’m scared of big meetings and the effort it takes to get things done. I’m scared of the cold shower every morning. I’m scared of the heavy workout I have to do in the gym. I’m scared of losing my hair and being rejected by the opposite sex. I’m scared of physical confrontation and I have a deep fear I’ll be exposed to the world as a coward. I’m scared of spiders. And I’m scared I’m not man enough to make something out of this life and that I really am a loser!

I used to hide from all these fears and they drove me to hide from life. I used to go red in the face when it was suggested I was scared of anything because I was in such denial and my masculinity was so fragile.

But now I embrace fear.

I know it’s always going to be there. I wait for it to arrive and then tell it to get in the car with me, we’re going for a ride. We’re doing this, whether you’re here or not, fear.

Fear isn’t even your enemy. It’s trying to protect you, it’s an overbearing mother. It’s also a signpost, telling you what you need to do to become a better person, with better mental health.

Your fears are a manual on how to find peace. They are instructions on what to work on, what to face, and what to do with your life.

Here’s an example. I was terrified of therapy, but I eventually did it, and it basically saved my life.

This is why I can own my weaknesses and acknowledge my fears, by doing the work.

Embrace fear and go forth with courage to make the most out of who you really are. And when you work out how to do this, tell me, because I’m still working on it.

self help

About the Creator

Jamie Jackson

Between two skies and towards the night.

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Comments (1)

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  • Hannah Moore4 months ago

    I am a very fearful person, and so I live with constant fear. I know HOW to live with less fear, but then I'd live with less of everything I value. And so I live with a lot of fear.

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