You’re going to fail

Learning anything truly challenging hurts; it can make us feel inadequate, and leave us feeling confused about more than just the subject matter. I understand not wanting to do that when life itself is already challenging, but that comfort comes at a cost.

Ignorance is bliss, but only if your world is tiny and stays that way. We don’t live in that world anymore. We’re a global people. Someone in China ate a bat and birthed a global pandemic that’s already taken millions of lives, illustrating how interconnected our lives are. We can’t afford to stay ignorant. Lives depend on it.

Many times in my life have I had to rebuild my entire worldview from the ground up. It’s a dark place to be in when nothing makes sense anymore. It’s confusing, but most of all, painful. It helps that I was deeply apathetic growing up anyway to numb the pain of childhood trauma. I felt detached from the world most of the time. That numbness helped me be comfortable with learning unsettling things about the world I occupy.

Now that I’ve made progress in therapy learning anything that challenges my worldview has become significantly more painful. I feel much more than I did growing up thanks to therapy. Feeling more has become a significant hindrance to my learning. Looking back I see a graveyard of mistakes made in an attempt to be less ignorant of the world I live in. I sometimes wonder whether it was worth it but then I remind myself that staying ignorant prevents me from adequately navigating an ever changing world. It helps just enough to try again.

I have big dreams and challenge myself accordingly. I fail daily, at an ever increasing rate. I need you to understand that you will fail doing anything of note. You have to work at it when nobody’s watching, perhaps for years, possibly decades before you can reap the rewards. What’s worse is that you’re not guaranteed a good outcome. You can work hard at something for decades and continue to fail until the day you die. It is a burden that you must carry alone.

Learning how to fail with a little grace is quintessentially human and hard to master. You need a healthy dose of humility, self-awareness about the limits of your understanding, unrelenting curiosity, and the willingness to suffer. Be a brave soul. It doesn’t really get any easier with age as far as I can tell. If you’re comfortable you’ve grown complacent; you’re not challenging yourself enough.

Ask hard questions, learn hard things. We can’t afford to be ingnorant in this world. See climate change, collapsing ecosystems, covid19, vaccines, the potential for antibiotic resistant super bugs, and so on. Our lives depend on our willingness to be comfortable with failure and learning from said failure.

Created on August 15, 2021
Published on August 15, 2021