No, not that one. The other one. The one that upsets us a whole lot more. The one that really brings us to our knees. Uh huh. You've got it - failure. Nothing strikes fear into our heart quite like it. No one likes to fail and most of us will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it.
Winning is good. Clearly. Hurrah! But, we rarely win all the time. Through lack of application or resources. Bad luck. Someone else being . . . shhhhh . . . better than us. Not working hard enough. Circumstances beyond our control. Someone else not playing fair. It stands to reason that sometimes we are going to fail during this long and rich journey of life, so maybe we should get a little better at it?
Fear of failure can loom so large that we stop playing the game all together, which is actually the ultimate tragedy. Isn't that the greatest failure of them all? To be so fearful of failing that we make our life smaller, live in ever-decreasing circles to keep ourselves safe and avoid it?
Benjamin Franklin said there was nothing certain in this world save death or taxes. I think we can add failure to that list. Applying an emotional tourniquet to our life in order to prevent future failure is not a winning strategy, it's a strategy of lessening ourselves. Of spiritual and emotional cowardice.
Failure is one of the greatest growth experiences there is. It can be an experience gifted to help us expand our world view. It's an opportunity to pause, to ask: What can I learn here? Why might this have happened in my life, now? What do I not want to repeat here?
The most important question for me is "What does this mean I want?" Really, really WANT? Nothing, throws what you truly want into clearer, sharper relief better than failing.
You only need to have a failed marriage to a lying cheat to know that you want, more than anything, an honest partner with a good heart and integrity above all other qualifications.
You only need to be turned down at the final two on the third interview to know how much you really REALLY want to leave your current job when it was so close you could taste it. Your efforts will be redoubled with the clarity.
There is a silver lining to failure, if we look hard enough. Some failure in life is inevitable for pretty much all of us. But it doesn't have to be the end of the road. It can be the springboard to the next great thing - or it can be the failure that defines us and causes us to play small in that arena ever after. Too scared to love again. Or to reach higher professionally. Or to risk again.
It seems to me we can either transcend our failure, or we can let it define us.
Harry Potter author J K Rowling famously and wisely said "Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built the rest of my life." Just so. Failure really isn't a taboo word, it's an inevitable part of a full life well-lived.
After all, it's not about what knocked us down, so much as how much courage and grace we have to get back up. Getting fired or being dumped just could be the solid foundation on which you build the rest of your life.