Just like the two sides of a coin, good and bad, ugly and fine, tall and short, white and black, average and outstanding, there is not just success but failure as well.
I am not such an ardent believer in grey areas; but for those of us who are, what would the opposite of grey be? I have hardly met someone who said to me. “I really do not want to be successful. I just want to be in between; you know, not a failure and not a success.” I do not even think someone should be referred to as a ‘success’ or a ‘failure’ because that would mean it is a state of perpetuity – and we all know both are not.
In this part of Africa, we have been conditioned from birth to believe that failure is a thing that is not meant to be; it is unnatural and something that is befitting for the ‘énemies’ who are the ones shooting the arrows of our downfall; as though when failure happens, one is condemned forever.
Like the one-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill once said, Failure is not fatal; success is not final, it is the courage to continue that counts. People who recount their success stories have shown that failure, if understood and channeled properly, is usually a very powerful motivator for ground breaking success. On the other hand, there are woeful tales of those who ended their lives and gave up every ounce of hope because of a few failings in their lives.
I have observed that the difference between those that see failure as a ‘means’ and those that see it as ‘the end’ is their interpretation of that event or the series of events that led to that failure. Sometimes, it is self-caused and at other times caused by external events that are beyond our control.
We know that failure is really subjective and measured by set standards of people’s levels of performance with either quantitative or qualitative boundaries. These standards most times set by people, either through systems, or just through unspoken traditions are not absolute and should never define us.
Some of us are ‘humiliated’ by failure, while others cash in on it. I know of a boy who was always first position in his class in secondary school. It defined him and he was so sure it was his right to always be first! But we know life has its own trajectory, which is never a straight line. He came second position sometime in S.S.3. He was angry at everybody. He did not eat, did not help around the house anymore and was bitter at the other boy who came first!
Coming second position is not failing, but his attitude was failing. Having an entitlement disposition in this regard is bad and such behaviour, if not nipped in the bud, could be fatal. If that orientation does not change, he would definitely succeed at different points in his life because of his brilliance and tact but when he fails – and at some point, he will – he might not have the wherewithal to handle that event psychologically and emotionally and that in itself is dangerous.
Everyone should make it a point of duty to separate their successes or failures from who they really are. It should be more of seeing one’s self as a very healthy and capable person who is going to be resilient and never give up to life’s blows or never get arrogant during successful times. Understanding this helps us to have a great attitude even when we fail, as we strive onwards unto success; failing forward and being better. It is more about who we become during these events.
By Oludara Ogunbowale