Failure is a rite of passage

A fog descended upon me without a whisper or warning. I felt helpless. Lost. I didn’t want to cry out for help.

What if no one hears it? Or worse, what if someone does?

I was too tired. Exhausted. All I wanted to do was, lie down, go to sleep for a minute, an hour or maybe a lifetime.

That is how I felt as I slumped on the sofa after failing my fifth interview in two months. I had finally graduated and was excited and impatient to get out of student life. But without experience, it is hard to get called on interviews. And well clearing interviews is just as hard. The world expects you to prove yourself before it can offer you something. The story might have ended there, if I had given up and lived in debt the rest of my life. But thankfully it didn’t. It took another 5 interviews before I landed on a job.

Is this a tale of success or failure?

I would say it’s both. One wouldn’t exist without the other.

Have you heard of the term “Rite of passage“? It’s a ceremony or event marking an important stage in someone’s life. There are everyday rite of passages like, graduating, or a wedding. And then some very interesting ones like the ones followed by a Brazilian tribe called Satere – Mawe.

In the Satere – Mawe tribe, a boy becomes a man only after he wears gloves that are made with bullet ants weaved into the leaves, for 5 minutes at a time. Not just once but 20 times – over the course of months and sometimes years. To put things into perspective, the sting of the bullet ant is 30 times worse than a bee sting. The pain is described as being “wildly painful and excruciating in length”. The pain continues for up to 24 hours, during which the boy will shake uncontrollably, experience muscle paralysis and hallucinations.

Why go through all of this willingly?

The tribe believes, if you live your life without suffering anything or without any kind of effort, it isn’t worth anything at all.

Failures are our bullet ant gloves. We need to get them on – sometimes over and over again to go to the next stage.

Failure is the pathway to success

There is no way to avoid failure. If you want to get to the highway, you got to pay your tolls. If you want to get to the top of the mountain, you got to fall a few times.

We might think, if we are very careful and do every single thing right, we can pass by failure unnoticed. But success is a throne guarded fiercely by failure. The bigger the throne, the more closely it is guarded. If we want to claim the throne, we will have to defeat every single one of those warriors.

Failure and success is not a choice.

Life doesn’t give you a choice on success or failure. Failure is a means to an end. But we do have a choice on something. Our perspective.

Just like a right of passage is endured and expected as a step to the next stage, expect failure. Expect it often.

Do you know why we find failure crushing?

It’s because we expect to be great in everything we do. And we expect to be great, now. We fail to factor in the amount of work or sacrifices it might need. But if you expect failure, just as you would expect a child to grow up or the leaves to fall in autumn, as a part of life, it becomes normal. It becomes a way to gain insider information on success.

The opposite of success is not failure. The opposite of success is not trying.

In the ancient Chola kingdom in India, Periya Pazhuvettaiyar was the chancellor and treasurer , second only to the king. He has numerous songs and poems written about the 64 battle scars he got on his body.

We live in a time where scars are considered ugly. There was once a time where a scar-less body was considered a disgrace. Because, if you didn’t have scars, it meant you have never been in a battle. It meant you have never tried to survive.

There is no glory if you don’t try and fail and try again. Hiding from failure is still failure. The things that scare you the most , hold the greatest opportunities for your growth.

Failure is an incomplete story.

Henry Ford’s business failed and left him broke 5 times.

Steve Jobs was fired from Apple , the company he co-founded.

Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job because he was not creative enough.

You might have heard these stories a million times. Today, these are inspirational. Now, that you know the entire story. The story of how they picked themselves up and became larger than life. But at the time it happened, they would have been considered failures. Success stories are in fact a story of failures with a surprising twist.

Your story doesn’t end with failure. In fact failures are not stories at all. It is a story only when the ending goes “And so that is how all that failure led to where I am now”.

Don’t leave your story incomplete.

There is beauty in your struggles.

Have you heard of Kintsugi – an ancient Japanese art of reviving broken pottery with gold ? By highlighting it’s imperfections, instead of hiding them, the pot soars in value.

Your struggles and failures are not something to be ashamed of. They need not be hidden under a rock or stashed away in some hidden drawer. Wear them proudly. Show the world how you have picked up your broken pieces and made yourself the complete, beautiful person that you are.

It’s my turn to listen now. Would love to hear your complete or incomplete story. Comment below. I love to hear from you.

Life lessons

coffeeonthehouse View All →

I’m a bookworm, mom and have a daytime job that involves computers and tons of data. I believe we have the power to make our lives better and the right time to start is now.

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