Sunday, March 2, 2014

Failure Misunderstood

On my first day back on the job, at my old work place, before going half crazy and attempting to "live off the land", I was greeted by an old friend. It was not, however, the warm greeting I had hoped for.

"That whole farming thing didn't work out did it?"

At this point along my journey to reentering the rat-race, I was unprepared to answer this kind of greeting.

9 months later, after a serendipitous chain of unfortunate events, I find myself back in my old job as the department manager and, as a result, find myself speaking with many of my old manager coworkers in this, my new-old sphere of influence.

Friday was my first big "meeting" with many of these former, and once again, co workers. Again I heard many of the same comments on my return...."Farming thing didn't work out huh?" was the ubiquitous response to meeting me again for the first time. There was another, "I told you, you were crazy!"

And it struck me that many in our American society regard trying something and failing in that endeavor is somehow less honorable or sane than having never tried at all.

So let's break it down. Was my too o'er hasty "retirement" a failure?

If success in our attempt at full time farming is measured in dollars earned or in longevity in the endeavor, or a stubborn refusal to quit, then I would have to say yes to this question. We failed to do what we set out to do.

If success in our attempt at full time farming, meant we learned some very important things...

1) we learned just how little we can live on.
2) we learned that we really enjoyed the experience, over all, and I had a year of spending every day with my wife. Something I may never have again.
3) we learned that dreams can be realized and that it is okay if they are not what we expect.
4) we learned that failure is less tragic than "failing to try" something new for wont of courage
5) we learned that living life in a line is much more difficult than it sounds, especially when life offers you a circle back to try again.

then I would have to say that our attempt at full time farming was an overwhelming success!

Why is the failure almost always held to be more shameful than the failure to try? In the last three years, we've been called crazy; we've been called failures; we've been accused of going back on our word, one person actually chastising me for not letting my Yes be yes and my No be no. We've met people, who for forty or more years have never left the town they were born in; who can't comprehend the insignificance of social status, income, stuff. Its as if, they are still in terror of this mythical permanent record we've all been told about since grade school.

How do I measure or success or failure over the last 4 years? I guess I would have to say, it was neither a failure or a success; or to muddy the waters even more, we were successful in our failures even in our failure of achieving success. The greatest success derived from our failure is the conquering of the fear of trying something, just because you want to try something new.

Success then, is the acceptance of whatever comes one's way, either from the failure or the success one achieves.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Most people never have the courage to leap out of what they know is a sure bet and just try something crazy. The fact that we could do that and we can support ourselves here 100% if we ever need or want to again is an amazingly freeing knowledge. I enjoyed our year on our own and I am glad we did it .