Full disclosure “failing upwards” is totally one of those motivational phrases that I absolutely abhor. I am most definitely failing, but the only thing going upward is my debt. No… seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the premise of the phrase. We owe it to ourselves to do something that scares us, go for our dreams, and inevitably risk failure. However, as a society we have become risk averse. We are so risk averse that we have lost sight of what it truly means to fail.
Failure has suddenly become synonymous with not doing enough, doing too much, or not knowing what to do at all. In essence, we’ve begun to attach the word failure to any moments in our lives that make us uncomfortable or question our long-term trajectory. The issue with this lies in the fact that failure is not a state of being, but rather a description of an outcome. This is where the idea of failing upwards falls short. No you are not a failure because you’re unmarried, your kids suck, or because you like the new Kanye. You are, however, a failure if you let outcomes become your identity. On the bright side, this means that you’re most likely not a sociopath so there’s that.
In all seriousness, as a society we need to work towards embracing the idea of growing pains and erasing the idea of failure. Normally, I am opposed to the new-age, “participation trophy” approach to life. No, not everything is good. No, not every result is positive. Yes, you have failed and you will fail again. However, in the overexposed society in which we live we do not have a realistic litmus of where we should be in life. This leads us to attach failure to any aspect of our lives that “falls short”. In an ideal world, failing upwards would describe a comfort in knowing that not everything will go your way in life. However until we learn to escape the pressure of what should be and embrace what is, we will continue to universalize the implications of our failures. Stop failing upwards. We must learn to just fail and keep it moving.
Until then, have fun defying the laws of gravity!