Failure can be a gift. Essay

Failure can be a gift. Essay

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In Let Your Life Speak, Palmer paraphrases the wisdom given by the Quaker Ruth saying “there is as much guidance in what does not and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does—maybe more.” his premise is tantamount to heresy toward western cultural ideology. Experience has led me to agree with this premise, having found greater guidance and personal reward when the proverbial door closed on a goal or direction toward which I was marching yet was ill equipped to embrace. Although our cultural mythology mandates success in defiance of limitations as the reward of honest effort, relegating failure to the lazy, many discover upon reflection that failure offers greater guidance and personal reward.
In my adolescence I would often be asked to take care of younger siblings or cousins, occasionally I would be paid by neighbors to do the same. In once such instance while preparing food for a 5 year old cousin I learned an early lesson in acceptable failure. Though directed and admonished repeatedly to stop bothering my sister’s cat, the child was apparently quite convinced that cats like to be sat upon, or he was until the cat issued a final irritated growl and raked his tormenter with his claws before making a swift escape under a bed. Despite being taught that the cat would react with anger, and that he would get hurt, it was the experience that actually conveyed the lesson. Even as a 12 year old I recognized the impact of the lesson, my cousin was much more attentive to things he was told would Hurt him, and though still curious and interested in the cat, he gave the animal a wider berth. Years later while studying the psychological processes behind learning I would be introduced to the concept of tolerated failu...


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...e reproducing; if the reason for its premature demise is genetically transmissible, then its death makes the gene pool of its species better adapted to surviving in the existing environment. In American society an individual is a “failure” when unable to achieve a goal to which they aspire. However as both Palmers life and my own indicate; if the reason for this failure is due to limitations or liabilities that would have made them ill-suited to the responsibilities of their aspiration, or provide them with the seeds of greater success then it is not truly failure, it is experience. I believe American poet and activist Maya Angelou put in best when stated in 2004 “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

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