As a surprise, I signed up for ballroom dancing lessons with Jenny. I had rosy visions of twirling her around the floor while brilliantined men in dinner jackets played peppy tunes on from the bandstand.
Alas, after two or three sessions, it was obvious that I suck. While my wife is graceful and athletic as a prima ballerina, I clearly and congenitally have no innate sense of rhythm, no ability to remember steps, no actual understanding of music at all. Despite her brave smile, I finally acknowledged I’d have to buy Jenny steel-capped pumps or hang up my dancing shoes.
What if you try doing something and find you’re not very good at it. What are the consequences?
First, the cons.
You get frustrated. Ashamed. Humiliated. Then start beating yourself up for wasting everyone’s time trying to do this. One failure metastasizes into a blanket condemnation of your ability to do anything at all, ever. You’re a blundering old idiot with two left feet, non-opposable thumbs, jackass ears, and a tail.
Now, what if you could turn your abject failure into something a little more useful. Consider your venture into new territory as a brave quest to discover your personal limits. Failure is a great way to grow your self-awareness and see what you’re made of. It also helps you shed fantasies you might have about yourself as a great golfer or balalaika player or Texas Two-stepper. To dwell firmly in reality, however embarrassing.
Even more productively, failure is an opportunity to explore other ways to improve yourself, rather than give up. Start by looking for inspiration from those who have failed before they succeeded. Then, ask for guidance in overcoming your hurdles. It’s a great way to make friends and learn from others with similar ambitions who are just a few steps ahead.
Take true stock of yourself. Maybe you’re giving up too easily. Get some grit, suck it up, and push yourself a little harder. Success might be just around the bend. Or perhaps you need to alter your ambitions. Maybe the jitterbug isn’t for you — but you were born to hustle.
Keep pushing yourself to try and to learn new things, no matter how they turn out. You’ll find yourself growing stronger, more capable, more resilient and courageous.
Failure is an option. Especially if you succeed at it.