What We Thought Was Failure

In high school, science didn’t come easily to me.

I didn’t really study for tests. So when I got a B-, it was no reflection of my intelligence since I hadn’t really tried.

In other words, I played it safe.

The riskier thing would have been to do flash cards after dinner, recite cell structures in the shower, practice protein synthesis forwards and backwards.

And I didn’t because I was afraid that if I did all that and still got a B-, it would be a reflection of my intelligence.

What I didn’t know in high school is that intelligence - like most all of our traits - isn’t fixed. But here’s the greater point: it will always be riskier to go all in.

It’s vulnerable to put our hearts, our hopes, our earnestness on the line, and publicly so. We could fall far short. We could crash and burn. We could make fools of ourselves.

Here’s what else I know that I didn’t in high school: I’d rather be the fool who crashed and burned than the cynic who kept close to the sidelines.

The fool risks failure in the name of something greater - caring or believing, creating, living. Which is hardly foolish. And which can’t be failure because the real failure would have been to risk nothing at all.

So love the part of us that wants to play it safe and stay in our shell. Love the part of us that’s scared straight of falling on our face; falling is hard.

Love all those parts.

Then act from the part of us that risks going all in.

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FailureCaitie Whelan