Because of their ability, be it innate, honed, or both, for introspection, asking an author about their biggest failure usually leads to reflections on life inspiring us directly or not to make a change or take a step that we haven’t yet been able to. Readers already inspired by the writings of the authors who regularly contribute to the twice-a-month Ask An Author feature on this blog were wondering what these authors would consider as their biggest failure and what they would have to say about it.
My biggest failure. This is a great question. I’m excellent at failing so it’s hard to pick just one! One of my keenest regrets though, is failing to learn Cantonese—my mother’s first language. Later in life, I learned to speak French, and of the insights into a people and their culture which can be achieved through understanding the language. So while being bilingual is a good thing, it has lead me to understand that by not speaking Cantonese, I am missing a part of myself.
I think my greatest failure was probably my biggest learning experience. Years ago I took a university paper in creative writing, but it turned out to be more of a paper in literary fiction (despite the course information!). I have always written ‘genre’ fiction, and my teacher hated it. I had to write what he wanted, or I was going to fail. So I forced myself to. I passed the paper, but I killed my passion for writing for a few years. The valuable lesson was that I MUST write the stories that call me, and that writing what someone else wants me to is a surefire way to kill my passion.
Every “failure” is a success in disguise. Therefore, there are no true failures, only unrecognized successes.
I wanted to work with animals. I’ve wanted to since I was in kindergarten and it wasn’t cool. My choice was to work at a zoo and to that end I got as far as a round of testing at Potter Park Zoo. I did really well, went home and double checked the two answers I thought I might have missed and they were correct.
There were a good 20 people in the room taking the test, including a guy who came up from Florida. When I went to hand in my paper, I heard the lady at the desk telling a girl that they’d be in touch with her in a couple of weeks. I did not get this speech. There was no call. To this day I have to wonder if they already had the person they wanted but had to “go through the motions” which makes me really sad for the person who spent time, gas, and money coming to the opposite side of the country for the opportunity.
However, I have also come to realize that if I can do well with my writing, I can help the animals I love. I can also share my love of them through my writing. Sometimes the path not taken can be touched on by the path you do. So never give up on your dreams, just realize they might be modified over time.
Before I answer your question, I will like you to read 4 lines from a poem I came across in Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow rich, some years back.’:
“I bargained with life for a penny, And life would pay no more.”
“…any wage I had asked of life, Life would have willingly paid.
I don’t know who wrote it, but these four lines from the poem says it all. My biggest failure is not demanding from life more than I have done in the past. I have asked for and settled for little. So therefore, I have worked for and received little. From my past mistake, I have learnt not to settle for less. If I want the best out of something, I simply acknowledge what I want and work towards achieving it. Life is fare and will only give to me what I want. There is no such thing as luck. This applies in every aspect of my life.
I’m in the process of turning a failure into a plus. I had written a ms. that everyone loved, but the ending got different reviews from everyone—all bad. So I thought it was hopeless, put it away in (computer) mothballs, and didn’t deal with it anymore. Big mistake. A large portion of that ms. had some of my best writing in it! So now, I have taken the ms. out of the mothballs and am working on a new ending—which I should have done in the first place!
My biggest failure, and some would say it wasn’t my fault, but it’s still extremely hard not to take it personally, was my first marriage. I learned a lot about the warning signs or red flags of domestic violence and what narcissistic sociopaths are– the biggest thing I learned though is my children and I deserve to be loved!
My biggest failure was not completing my twelfth grade English term paper because I had moved to a different school a few months before I graduated. It stayed with me for years-the incompletion of the project. Since then, I’ve been determined to finish all projects, whether writing related or otherwise, to prove that I can do it.
I don’t tend to think of things in terms of successes or failures. Some goals you achieve, some you don’t. Labelling something as a ‘failure’ implies that you gained nothing from the exercise. You might fail to achieve the goal, but to call it a failure diminishes the progress you did make, and the things that you learned. In fact, I can’t think of anything I would label a ‘failure’. I can look back on plenty of learning experiences, but nothing that looms large in my past as a ‘failure’.
My most significant failure was living too much of my life to suit others. My second wife, Miss Bob, taught me the value of living for the present. For fifteen years, we lived our lives to suit ourselves and God. We understood that the greatest thing in life is simply to love and be loved in return. And we did just that.
Image courtesy of Chad Mauger.