Freedom from Failure

by Lindsay Howard    

On May 9, 2016, I signed a failure contract, courtesy of blogger Hannah Brencher. At 18 years old, I naïvely signed a document stating that I would take risks in life. My small teenage brain thought that THIS was the solution to REALLY get somewhere in life. Little did I know, this contract would be my saving grace and my anchor to the idea that failure is vital for growth.

My college career has been lined with failure. In fact, I have had more failures than successes. I have spent nights crying that I did not get the part I wanted in a show. Maybe I took a risk at making a new friend who did not want to be friends with me. Or often it was on a smaller scale, like making the choice to attempt three turns in a dance class and falling flat on my face. Although these failures, large and small, have often  been incredibly painful, I argue that they were more influential in my growth than my successes. Failing provides an opportunity to learn that succeeding does not. It creates space to get messy and dig deep into the nitty gritty of the fail. As a self-proclaimed failure expert, I am here to say that generally each fail has been more valuable than each success. They allow me to make a choice: will I sink or swim? Will this failure define me? Will it be me downfall? Or will it light a fire, giving me the strength to overcome?

The risk of failing is present in each and every venture a person takes. Test taking. Moving to a different city. Going for that extra turn. Belting that high note. Applying for that job. There is always a chance that it won’t work and you will be left at square one. The truth is, the people with the greatest accomplishments HAD to take the risk to be wrong. To fall over. To fail the test. Without taking the risk to fail, you have no chance at reward. The best moments in life come from being fearless in the face of failure, or from being full of fear and doing it anyway. Two things may come of it: you can have a great success (maybe the best of your life), or you’ve created for yourself an opportunity to grow and learn in a new way. The first woman to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault risked being called a liar. The women who are leading #MeToo and the Times Up movement had to risk being ignored. The women who are in the process of changing the world had to look failure in the face and take a chance. We can all see the fruition of their freedom from failure.

I can tell you first hand, each success of your life will be so much sweeter if you go out on a limb and take a chance. Take the class. Text the boy. Go the extra mile. I dare you. Maybe it won’t work. Will the world end? Will the sun rise tomorrow? I can tell you the world will indeed not end. The sun will rise again. And you will be better from your failure. Period.

Here’s the truth: no risk, no reward.

Here’s the dare: next time you skip out on something because it is scary and you might look silly, think again. It could be the fail that catapults you into the biggest and best adventure of your life.

Lindsay Howard