Failure can be painful. In fact, I’d dare to say that failure is painful by nature.
If it doesn’t sting at least a little bit when you let something go, did you really want it that much in the first place? (Or am I just overly dramatic about everything?)
I’m talking about ‘failure’ in the broadest sense possible here. I’m not even sure that failure is really what I mean. I mean that feeling you get when something goes wrong or doesn’t work out the way you hoped. It could be the end of a relationship, a dream job you didn’t get, or something you desperately wanted that went out of stock as soon as you saved up enough money to buy it.
(Maybe “disappointment” would be a better word, but that would screw my opening line.)
Something can feel truly devastating in the moment, but when you look back a few months later you realise that it was the best thing that could have happened.
Let me give you an example (as humbling as this might be).
At the end of last year, I interviewed for a job. Life wasn’t being too kind to me at the time, and it really was my dream job, with a great company and a salary twice what I was earning. I thought the interview had gone well, and had pretty high hopes for the outcome.
Well, they ghosted me.
I didn’t even get a copy and pasted “sorry, better luck next time” email. I waited for a good couple of weeks before I accepted that a phone call was not going to come.
In other periods of my life, something like this would have left me really down. To want something so much, to try so hard, to then be defeated, would have really knocked my confidence.
Instead, I truly thought: Oh well, it’s their loss, because I’m great at my job.
And then I thought some more, and started to wonder why I so desperately wanted to give my invaluable skills to someone else’s business.
Why was I not starting my own business?
And that was when it was settled. Instead of throwing myself into finding a new job or climbing for a promotion, I put every free moment of my time into creating Outloud.
Read my most recent article…
Now, I feel differently when I look back at that job. I’m glad that I didn’t get it. It was a good opportunity, but it would have worked me to the bone. I never would have had the time to create Outloud. Maybe I would have got sucked into a corporate cycle, and never would have had the inspiration to get off my backside and Do The Thing.
As painful as it can be when something doesn’t work out like you expected, sometimes it’s the universe giving you a nudge in the right direction. (Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes life just sucks. But when something isn’t going your way, it’s nice to think that you might be on a path towards something even better. Patience is key, because you never know what’s coming next.)
I wrote an article a few months ago about learning from your failures, and how mistakes can usually be reframed as learning curves. I still believe that to be true, completely, but this is something different. This is more about the things that you can’t control, the things that happen to you rather than the things that you make happen.
It’s like the butterfly effect; the idea that one small, seemingly meaningless action can snowball into something that alters the course of your life.
I can say, unequivocally, that Brexit was shit for my country, and if I could change it then I would. But without it, my life would be completely different.
After I finished my Erasmus+ programme in Seville almost three years ago, I was unable to get a residency permit in Spain and had to go back to England. I ended up moving into a new house in the middle of a dreary British winter, which is where I met Laura, our travel writer. Nights at the kitchen table with a bottle of wine (or two) helped Laura and I through some tough times. She ended up coming with me to Greece to volunteer on a conservation project for the whole summer, and she’s still one of my best friends!
Without Brexit, so many of my choices would have been different, in a real sliding-doors kind of way. I don’t think I’d be living in Portugal right now; I never would have found my new home here. Maybe it’s because of Brexit that I have everything I am grateful for now.
Alright, enough existential talk for one day.
I’m just trying to demonstrate, with some seemingly random stories, that it’s important to keep a positive mindset when things go wrong. Things don’t keep going wrong forever; there is always a moment of reprieve ahead.
This is your reminder to embrace change, adapt to new circumstances, and most of all, trust that life has a funny way of working out. Be kind, believe in yourself, and the rest will fall into place.