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Failure = Success

Updated: May 9, 2020

Failure and Success. Opposites, right?

Just like Chaos and Order.


Or are they? The relationship between things like Order and Chaos are far more intertwined than we like to admit. After all, we tend to prefer our truths simple and straight forward with as few complications as possible; whether that truth is really 'true' or not.

We see order as control and chaos as lack of control. The difficult thing to admit to ones self is that we never really have control at all. The world around us is an infinitely complicated mix of people, desires, choices, and random occurrences. Our 'control' is an illusion at best; possibly better described as 'Chaos Navigation' as opposed to any dominion we have over our surroundings.

Robert Berezin M.D. said it best when he wrote, "Consciousness encompasses and reflects Chaos and Order...The brain utilizes a balance between chaos and order for its operations. It does not operate like a computer, feeding into established static bytes."

I see this all the time in my own house.

I have six kids. The scientific term for that is 'a crap-ton.' Order doesn't exist within our home, save for brief flashes when everyone is gone. I can sweep the kitchen and vacuum all I want, but the fruits of that labor disappear as fast as a chocolate bar sitting on my desk. With that many kids all under the age of 16 there are too many conflicting actions and reactions for things to stay static for any given amount of time.

That fact has helped me to understand that order and chaos aren't mutually exclusive. They don't exist apart from each other. They are a balance, ebbing and flowing like a river; neither good nor bad. What we do with them and how we respond creates the negative and positive.

Embracing chaos as a part of life, riding that wave, allows us to cast off our imagined control and live in the moment; which is really all we have anyway. This isn't to say we never plan for the future or try to set ourselves up as best we can for the next year and decade; no, it's all about understanding that when things don't go according to our plan we're able to adapt without losing our shit.

It's like casting off the fear of what mishaps tomorrow might bring, and focusing instead on how we respond to said mishaps. They're going to come whether we like it or not, so sitting around lamenting our lack of control in the chaos doesn't do us any good.

So what does all of this have to do with success and failure?

The exact same thing.


History shows us almost limitless examples of instant success leading to lifelong failure.


Success and failure aren't opposites. They are the same balance, the same river we navigate, as chaos and order.

We often think of success as something that just happens, or that it is independent of failure. Unfortunately it's not. Failure leads to success, and success once obtained is no guarantee against future failure.

Let's look at it through the Gold Rush analogy. In a gold rush the first prospectors my stumble upon the vein of gold and exploit their finding with little effort. They achieve success quickly and easily. As the gold rush continues there are diminishing returns for everyone, forcing some to work harder and others to pull back. Rarely do the initial gold rush winners achieve lasting success in this scenario.

History shows us almost limitless examples of instant success leading to lifelong failure.

So if success and failure are two sides to the same coin, how do we get them to work together?

Unfortunately there's no silver bullet. It doesn't exist. If it did, we'd all use it and we'd find success too quickly. Failure leads to success, and the more failure you have the greater the eventual success can be. Nothing ventured nothing gained, right?

It reminds me of Pixar, the famous animation studio. They have a corporate saying: Fail as fast as you can. When they start pitching a new story or begin working on character designs they will tear each other to shreds and point out every flaw so that they can achieve success as a team as fast as possible. They cycle through their failures quickly until success is attained

It seems to have worked pretty well for them.

Just like order and chaos, failure isn't a negative, and thus success isn't a positive. They exist, and it's in our response that we're able to determine whether good or bad comes from them. Fear of failure becomes the negative; lack of respect for success becomes the negative. The scars left behind by both can either become our own personal heaven or hell.

Anyone who understands the Japanese art of kintsugi will grasp the meaning of that right away. Kintsugi is an art form of taking broken things like pots and glass, and emphasizing the scars by filling them in with gold. Thus what once marred the surface becomes beautiful. Broken objects aren't then to be hidden away and discarded, but displayed with pride because the whole is now more precious because of the fractures.

Failure is like the gold filling in the kintsugi pots. Failure makes us more beautiful, not less. And it will be because of our failures that our successes arrive, either sooner or later.

We all want to succeed; it's a part of our culture. We need to expand beyond our comfort zones, and in so doing we will inevitably get cracked, dinged, and damaged. We'll inevitably fail.

And that failure my well define our lives.

That's okay. If order and chaos are forever linked, and failure and success the same, then there's no need to fret about it so long as we pick up the pieces and add a little gold to the mix.

After all, I'd rather be a broken pot with golden highlights than a pristine one that's never seen any use or care.

Here's to the next failure!

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