Do You Have the Audacity to Embrace Failure?
Judith Martinez ‘14
It was a blazing 107 degrees outside, but with the thoughts racing through my mind, it may as well have been below freezing. Harsh, cold, and relentless—my own criticism chilled me to the bone. I am my own worst critic. I read the line for what seemed to be the 50th time: “We appreciate the time and consideration you took . . . after much deliberation, we decided to go with someone else." The InHerShoes funding proposal my team and I worked on for months was rejected. I felt the blood rush out of my face, as the opportunity to take a recent endeavor to the next level disappeared. I was not sure what hurt more—what the message said or how I interpreted what the message said about me, who I am, or what I am capable of.
It is not difficult to find failure or, at least, what we perceive failure to be. What seems to be elusive is the audacity to embrace it.
Failure. I have heard this word thrown around a lot recently, in light of current events like the Dallas and Orlando shootings, ongoing debate of Trump versus Hillary, Golden State’s “slippery” fall, the U.K.’s Brexit, the attack on Ataturk airport, lives taken overseas and in our own backyard. The list goes on. It is not difficult to find failure or, at least, what we perceive failure to be. What seems to be elusive is the audacity to embrace it.
As a twenty-something, having graduated with one of the finest educations from Santa Clara, an authentic desire to make a difference, and an urge to contribute good to the world, these recent failures, both personal and of the world, have been a range of emotions. These are the actions and the impacts of actions we are faced with and, dare I say, responsible for. I’ve found myself on my daily commute replacing lip-syncing to the latest hip hop song, with far-off thoughts and inquiries in silence. Whether it’s questioning my ability to make a difference or the world’s capacity to love, it always loops back to the same underlying fear: failure.
The world can certainly be a scary place, but if I look closer, it can be a beautiful one as well.
Having created a nonprofit that places emphasis on living courageously, it is ironic for me to share that the world appears to be a scary place. It is a place where safe havens turn into shooting targets, political commentaries become personal threats, and loss is all too familiar. The world can certainly be a scary place, but if I look closer, it can be a beautiful one as well. A place where communities unite and are created, voices are raised, and opportunities are found everywhere. So, what if context was decisive? What if failures and mistakes are opportunities to see where we—I—have room to create a more humane, just, and sustainable world?
When I apply this theory to my own life, I am reminded of a quote from English novelist Neil Gaiman:
“If you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something. So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you're scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
So I challenge us all to use fear as a catalyst for success—as a tipping point for courage—and never stop Doing Something.