Accepting Failure Creates Success
I fail every day. Just ask my students. I also succeed. The same students – or clients, or friends – might likely tell you that, as well. My work is to teach, to mentor, to write, to present, and to show up. My work is also to answer emails in a timely fashion, to keep on top of the projects I’ve begun, to remain accountable to volunteers, to practice and study, to spend time with my friends, partners, and beloveds. My work is to listen, to plan, to remain open to what is around me and to set boundaries when appropriate. My work is to get things done. My work is to learn.
I fail every day. So why do I keep working? Why do I start new projects while simultaneously doing as much work as I can on the old? Let me explain something: my brain leaps from square one to square four. It’s the way I’m wired. In trying to hold this in check, I can temper the impulse to go-go-go, and to start-start-start. But sometimes it gets the better of me, I see the vision so clearly, or I’ve been holding off for five years on these projects I’ve been guided to spearhead, or the stated need of clients or others has been loud enough, for long enough, that I acquiesce. This is a good thing about me, it means that I am following the call of spirit. This very thing also proves to be problematic. I trip and fall sometimes, and paint too grand a vision too far in advance. Projects get delayed for myriad reasons. Responses get buried at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.
Yet, in the midst of all of this fumbling, a lot gets done. Books have been published, CDs released, DVDs and videos produced. Hours have been volunteered, people have been offered food, ideas, training, and time. Health and practice have been maintained, breakthroughs occurred, partnerships sustained, and fun has been had. If I never overshot myself, the successes that have come through me might still be relegated to the realm of dreams and wishes. Instead, hardy fool that I am, I took the dare and leapt.
In thinking about pursuing our desires, it can be helpful to assess – likely for the hundredth time – how we feel about failure and success. If thoughts of either collapse us, or sending us running for the nearest hermitage, we would do well to ask ourselves “why?” What is the resistance that still runs our lives?
To activate the Four Powers of the Sphinx – knowing, willing, daring, and keeping silence – requires us to let go of too much clinging to our ideas of success and failure. Activation is the place of opening, following, and knowing when and where to steer. To activate is the set things in motion. To do this, we need everything that has come before, every scrap of the fabric of our lives must be sewn into this. Nothing can hide from the fulfillment of the soul’s desire. Anything in our blind spots, or things we are avoiding, will still form the shape of our failure and success.
This is what I mean by assessing our relationship to success and failure: we need a deeper reassessment when we are in the phase of activation. I have to know my tendencies and the ways in which these undermine my project, and the ways in which they goad me toward success. My deepest failings are often the very things that fuel my life’s work. They keep me human and whole, and they make me act as though – like Prometheus – I can steal fire from the Gods.
Working magic means showing up with your demons and your divinity, your sorrow and your joy. Alchemy only happens when we are willing to go through the processes of gathering together, refining, pouring, and solidifying. In the end, we have something fine to hold.
Can we think of failure and success as necessary ingredients to the magical creation that flows from the alembic of desire? Accepting ourselves in this radical way enables us to act freely in the world, bringing forth our divine work, that very thing which only we can do.