Some time ago I read of a study that altered my perception of this thing we call failure: most of the world’s greatest achievements have resulted from being fired, from abject failure. It seems that we grow in life only during trauma, rarely in good times. We are so indolent by nature that we revel in our ruts and blissfully sink deeper into them every day that passes.
We are enjoined to “not rock the boat” – and we eagerly comply in order to hold on to that monetary umbilical cord that enslaves us. Perish the thought that we’d be forced out of our comfort zone into the tempestuous real world! When problems – even serious ones – arise in our workaday world, we rationalize our way into accepting almost any condition rather than risk losing that precious paycheck.
And not all firings are overt. How well I remember my second firing. This one but a year after the first one. After having cleaned out my office – a species of death in itself –, I dropped by the corporate CEO’s office to say goodby. He didn’t try to excuse my being fired or to weigh in on the decision to let me go – he was too wise for that. Instead, he leaned back in his chair and merely sighed, for he and I had become good friends. You know how it is: occasionally in life we stumble on an individual who proves to be such a kindred spirit we feel we’ve known him or her always. He was one of those. And had I remained there we quite likely might have become soul-mates. At any rate, after the sigh he said, “You know, Joe, I’ve been fired twice, too.” When my eyes widened in disbelief, he qualified his statement: “but neither ever showed on my record. Before each one took place, things got so bad at work I couldn’t help bringing some of it home with me. As each situation deteriorated it began to affect my wife’s health; I’d wake up in the middle of the night because of her weeping. But so determined was I to hold on to that paycheck that I bullheadedly refused to deal with the problem-person who was making both of our lives hell. So twice I had to leave my position. Neither showed on my record. You know, I’m convinced every last one of us, over time, will experience at least one similar situation. The world may not call it ‘firing,’ but inwardly it’s just as devastating as though we’d been actually fired.”
That observation provided me with an odd sort of comfort; furthermore I thereby learned that failure is but an extension of success; in life, rarely does anyone experience one unattached to the other. And my friend reminded me that we are never alone in our sufferings.
Tomorrow we’ll conclude this topic.
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“In the dark moments it’s always the apparent failure of what you live by that gets you down.”
– Elizabeth Goudge, from Pilgrim’s Inn