Following up on the theme from my last post, I decided to tackle a second question from the Marc and Angel Hack Life “50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind” list. Unlike the first question which required traversing many differing layers of thought, this one was very simple for me to answer.
Which is worse, failing or never trying?
I have always tried to live my life using the mantra “Regret the things you’ve done, not the things you didn’t do.”
I picture myself as an old man, sitting in a rocking chair on the patio of some retirement home. The sun is shining, there are birds in the nearby trees, and a jug of lemonade is resting on a cheap plastic table next to me. Condensation forms on the surface of the pitcher and slowly slides down the side until it drops off and adds the puddle forming on the table. When I was younger there was a grandchild at my feet, laying on his stomach, his head resting in his hands looking up at me. He would ask me about my life and events from the past. Since a grandchild does not appear to be the route my life has taken I have since replaced the grandchild with an old friend. My friend is on another rocker and we casually swap tales from our younger days. Tales which we have inevitably told each other many times before. If it weren’t for the fact that every time we tell the story some details get more and more exaggerated we could easily repeat each other’s stories verbatim.
I don’t want to find myself in that situation starting every sentence with “I wonder what would have happened if I had…”
Instead, I want to be starting every sentence with “I remember that time I…”
If you take a chance, if you really put yourself “out there” you will know the result of your actions. You can sit back and laugh about how “so-and-so broke your heart that time you asked her out.” You can joke about how you suffered a panic attack the first time you crawled around the fire hall wearing breathing apparatus in a zero-visibility condition. (These are hypothetical examples, of course – neither of them EVER happened to me! **eye roll**)
Wouldn’t it be much better to be sitting there laughing at things that – at the time – seemed like the most important things that would ever happen in your life? At least you would know that you managed to overcome your doubts and your fears and you conquered them. Or, you would at least know you failed miserably. After all, no one can possibly do, accomplish, know, or succeed at everything in life. There is no shame in failure. All too often failure is the one thing that let’s us know we’re actually living and not just existing.
The alternative is to be sitting in that rocking chair and, instead of laughing about your foibles, playing the game of “what if”. What if I had asked her out? She likely would have said “no”, but what if she said “yes”? “What if” is a very dangerous place to be. “What if” leads to doubts. Doubts lead you to questioning everything that did happen. Was the outcome of your life really the path you were meant to take? Did you control your destiny or did your destiny just happen?
The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.
I’d love to hear from you what your answer to Marc and Angel’s question is, especially if you view failure as worse than never trying. I’d love to hear any stories you’re willing to share of situations where you failed and wished you had never tried.