By Mark E. Smith
I don’t know if having my physical disability created my thirst for that which is difficult, or if it’s uncanny luck that as one who thrives off of that which is difficult, I was bestowed disability? Regardless, the two have formed an incredible synergy that’s fueled my life since I was a young child.
A big part of it is that, as a result, failure is innate to me. By physical nature of my disability, I fail a lot – sometimes as simple as tying my shoes or transferring from my wheelchair to the commode. Yet, what it’s taught me is that when we fail a lot, we counter-intuitively gain a confidence toward trying. If I do this, what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll fail. So what – I fail every day. But, I also have the chance to succeed. In this way, if we’re not afraid to fail, we’ll try anything, and when we’re that bold, it’s bound to lead to successes.
I witnessed this in action with my 19-year-old daughter recently. She took the bold step of doing a TED talk. Once you are selected, it takes months of work to prepare for the talk on stage. Then, when you’re up there in front of a live audience, with a huge production crew filming you, really it’s a chance for failure on the grandest scale. Some people try to cheat the risk of failure, wanting the glory without the guts. For example, at my daughter’s TED event, some other speakers used notes. However, you can’t fake risking failure, and when we do, we cheat ourselves in the end by not giving our all.
To the contrary, my daughter got up on stage with nothing but a microphone and the willingness to fail. She knew the obligation she had to herself and the audience to be authentic in every word that came not from shaky notes but the depth of her sincere heart. She was willing to risk failure in a shot at positively impacting the lives of countless others. And, that she did, arguably delivering the best performance at the event.
See, what I’ve learned is that the risk of failure shouldn’t deter, but inspire. As the adage goes, we shouldn’t dare to be great; rather, we’re great because we dare. As long as we try with absolute authenticity, we will risk failure while simultaneously setting ourselves up for success. It’s in that process of having the courage to put it all on the line – no matter transferring from a wheelchair to a commode or giving a TED talk – that our character is shown. Let us fail big and succeed even bigger because there’s nothing to gain from the safety of mediocrity….