Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Failing by Default....

“You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default”
–J.K. Rowling
(Commencement address to Harvard Graduates 2008)

This quote has been knocking around in my head all week. At first I couldn't place it. Then tonight, I realized:

Maybe Rowling has identified my biggest current fear.
Now it stands glaring me in the face.

And it just made me wonder: How much do we all fear failure? Rowling concludes that what she feared most in her 20's was not poverty but failure. And I think that's true. I don't really worry that I won't find a job and pay the bills. I am relatively sure I can do that. But what about teaching? And I am talking about actually teaching, like teaching that makes a difference. That seems like such a lofty goal. Seeing as this is a public forum, people will probably feel the need to give random affirmation. That isn't what I am looking for here. Because in the end, you are the only person who actually knows the full weight of your own limitations and possibilities.

What I want to know is this: do you fear failure? or poverty*? or both? Do you ever wonder if you will just not attempt things because fear immobilizes you?

I know, these are very personal thoughts, and this may be a far too public domain to discuss them, but its a question to get you thinking anyway. And hey, if you are feeling brave, post some thoughts. I'd love to hear them.

*Poverty in a very "North American" sense of course. I am sure we can never know real poverty, but to the extent that we could on this continent. Which one might argue, could be very little, and yet we still might fear "financial failure". Perhaps that is more "user friendly" term.


christy said...

drewlo. you are my favourite blogger. no offense to everyone else who's blogs i read... but you are my favourite & my best.
& the answer is yes, i definitly hold back from doing things out of fear of failure. i fear failure more than i fear poverty, or lack, but maybe even more i fear an unlived life.

Tyler said...

Poverty is one thing I don't think that I've ever feared. I suppose this is an easy thing to say living in the society that I do. I've spent years growing up in a single parent family of five with no income other than welfare, we always had what we needed. I've also spent years giving food to the street youth I serve in downtown Vancouver and realized that starvation will never be a reality for me. Poverty does not frighten me.
Fear of failure, on the other hand, has had me crippled for a good portion of my life. All my years in high school I never tried at anything for fear that I would turn out to be less capable than people imagined me to be. My years after high school were aimless since to have an aim is to set a measure for attainable success, a measure that I might not live up to. After years of healing and growing I decided that would no longer live in fear. Learning to do my best and risk failing in the attempt is a process though. It requires an examined life with prayer and humility. It requires hope and faith; these things I've found through the long and difficult process.

Kiki said...

There has been an excessive amount of posting since I last checked with you here, I will try and keep up.
I really think this should be discussed in person sometime soon. Now that I am back in the country. Your input is coveted.

Spiro said...

it's true, i don't fear poverty because i'm privileged enough to not have to fear poverty. especially harvard graduates. but I will say, i think many north americans experience poverty, in the real sense of the word.

as for what I do fear: right now, i think it's mostly having to finish school. being a student is all i've really ever known. (i actually contemplated this week getting a second masters. oh geez.)