Following Failure

Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human – however imperfectly – and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The thing that jumps off the pages of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is the unmistakable feeling that he is writing to himself. This reads as a journal. When that is taken into account, along with the fact that he was arguably the most powerful person in the world, the aphorisms somehow gain credence in my subjective interpretation. It is easy to dwell on the multitude of problems we have in our lives. And it is just as easy to look around and fantasize about how life would be so much easier in another person’s shoes. Maybe it’s their house, their family, their money, or their status, but they all have something that makes their life easier than the beatdown existence you are forced to contend with every day. When you read Meditations, it is a chance to view the world through the thoughts of that person who lives in the biggest house, who wields the power, who has the money, access, and privilege. What you find is that we all contend with the same demons. There are much deeper forces at work, and the problems we label as money, status, or love are no more than the surface layer of a tidal wave. Aurelius is not speaking to you as the Roman Emperor. These conversations remain true, even when we are stripped all the way down to only that substance we all share. 

There are a number of skills and qualities we praise and strive to build in ourselves. We have all heard about the power of positive thinking, or practicing gratitude, developing empathy, or turning the other cheek. I am not discrediting any of these ideas (how fantastic they are!), but what if there was a single idea you could believe in that would eventually show you the above mentioned behaviors? I emphasize show because I think we can all agree there is a difference between experiencing something and knowing it versus simply holding the ideas in your mind as beliefs. I think failure is the great showman of being human. It shows us where we messed up, where our assumptions were false, and where we have to improve. Well, it can do that. It is not necessarily automatic, nor easy to grow through failure. It takes courage, humility, and quite possibility the ability to step outside your self in order to do it properly. So I contend that learning how to respond to failure, how to get up off the mat, is the behavior that can show us what we need to grow as humans.

Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human – however imperfectly – and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Sorry for the re-print, but I wanted to close with the words once again fresh. We will all fail, even the Marcus Aurelius’s of our 21st century (I feel like Aurelius’s is not correct grammar, but you get the point). Failing is one of those ties that is shared among all humans. So let’s not judge ourselves, punish ourselves, or pity ourselves, and instead “celebrate behaving like a human.” We will each stumble into a variety of types and styles of failure in our life, but if we can cultivate the mindset to embrace these failures, we will grow. We will be something entirely different on the other side. 

To be discussed: There will definitely be more from Meditations, it’s one of my favorite books and there are so many more lessons to expand on. I will also be writing about a personal failure I have been dealing with. Thanks for reading!

Best explorations

-Ryan

4; 4/5/2020

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