Re-branding Our "Failures"

By Tom Peck

Throughout our lives, we have been told by so many impactful mentors, teachers, and coaches that we must learn to deal with loss, to accept it as a natural possible outcome of any decision or event. We have been told to take losses to heart and to learn from them. While these mantras are valuable, it’s important to be able to see the positives within each loss, to love it, and rebrand it.

As a culture, we celebrate this success with every fiber of our being. Raises. Popularity. Notoriety. Follows, retweets, and shares.

There are thousands of ways now that our successes are spread. People love the limelight, and even those that do not seek it often tend to love the attention a success can bring. But everything you have ever succeeded at, arguably, you also could have failed at. And when something does go awry, when we fail and lose, there can be jeers, or “You will get them/it/that/this next time.”

I personally have been on the receiving end of this phrase for as long as I can remember. To look at me now, you would see someone who was an athlete (gone slightly to seed, but that is another post), married, has a child, a house, and a decent job with upward mobility.

But 10 years ago? I was skinny, acne-ridden, awkward to the core, balding early, with a college scholarship in hand that even my local paper did not report. I told myself daily: That I was a loser. That I was too skinny, had not enough hair, wishing I didn’t read as much. Why I couldn’t get a different sports scholarship? Why does my dad love my brother more? That I did not matter. That I hate loss. That I hate failure. That I hate me.

I felt I had failed at pretty much everything I touched. I had destroyed relationships with a constant regularity. My temper had gotten me kicked out of numerous games and classes. I read to exclude myself. I was in a constant downward spiral determined to find a way out.

My first reaction to this was simply to stop caring. I dedicated myself to whatever felt good to me- the gym, books, women, alcohol, gambling. I filled out and became desirable to the opposite sex. My intelligence showed early in college classes. I had a natural tolerance for my vices, and I knew sports well enough to make money out of it.

I was living in the now, and only pretending to love it. But still, I felt all of the things I had told myself- that I was still a loser, still too skinny, that I did not matter, etc. Finally, I hit a low. I had transferred to multiple colleges, accumulating debt and slipping further into a depression that I had tried to hide for years. Everything came tumbling down one rainy day on a bike path in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

I was riding my bike to work, trying hard to stay eligible academically and pay rent. My moment among the worst storms in Arkansas history; roads were flooded, the University shut down, people literally kayaked back home from campus. And I was riding a bike. On a trail. Right next to a creek that was flooding. I made it to work and got the call that we were shut down. I had to go back home. About midway through my three mile ride, I just stopped and cried.

Now, I was 6’ 3,” 225 lbs at this point. A prime athlete, sitting on a bike path waist deep in water holding my bike and bawling. I finally opened the box that held every deep secret and fear that I had accumulated over the past five years, and I was alone. I stared into a storm that would have made Noah hammer faster and screamed out every frustration I had. I vented, raged, stomped, threw, splashed, cried, vomited, and once tried to drown myself.

I had to think about my life, who I was, what I was, where I was. I determined that I would sit there until I solved my problems, and thought of something that would get me out of the rushing river and onto solid ground. Metaphorically and literally, as at this point I was close to being washed away. I moved to solid ground, sat down in a deluge and began to meditate on this. How to find the best of every situation, and how to learn to accept it.

This was easy with successes, we do this naturally. But loss and failure are much more difficult. I discovered that every loss has a lesson and that in the lessons are the seeds in which we can learn the love of loss, and rebrand it as a success. Sitting in this cleansing rain, I formulated my thoughts and put a plan into action. I went home wet, cold, possibly hypothermic, but with a burden that I felt like I could finally accept and process.

I want you to think of a situation that you have experienced loss or failure. Skipped over for promotion, the loss of a loved one, rent money stolen, or anything else that has led to a feeling of defeat or loss.

Now ask yourself: What was the outcome of that situation? Is there any lesson there that you have learned? How can you incorporate it into your being? How are you able to reconcile it and turn it into a positive experience, one you can appreciate?

I transferred colleges five times in my life, from Ohio to Michigan to New York to Arkansas to Indiana. I ran the gamut of private liberal arts school to community college to a large university, and at each one, I was never at home. Financial problems plagued me and registry problems prevented my walking at graduation when I finally could. I had to find a positive in this existence, the silver lining in this situation.

I began to write:

“I graduated.

I married and have a great support system,

I love the situations that formed ME.

Without my experience in Ohio, I would have never have met my wife (had a one night stand).

In Michigan, I took time to re-evaluate how I approached school and became a better student (lived at home and failed a community college course).

I swam in New York and gained a great base of education (Destroyed my shoulders and gained $30,000 in debt).

I transferred to Arkansas, joined an amazing fraternity, played some football, learned how to live on my own, and reconnected with the woman that I would marry (followed a relationship that ended horribly, owed $5k more, added knee injuries and concussions, lived in poverty, sent a message on Facebook apologizing for the one night stand).

In Indiana, I finally graduated, began my career, and began my life as a husband and father (was told I couldn’t walk, was no longer a teacher, I had no idea what I was doing).

These situations made me who I am. Every negative thing that happened to me or that I did has formed me. I have learned from these failures and losses. I love myself. And because of this, I love every failure because they are me. Without them, I wouldn’t be not the person I am right now.”

I wrote that in a journal. It is a cover page that gets taped onto the inside cover of the new one every time I fill one up. I will add to it when I need to for any major events I have.

In order to love loss and failure, you must be able to recognize the positives that came from that situation. What was the situation and what was the outcome? Identify all factors associated with the action, and find the positive part of that action- there almost always is one.

No matter how detrimental the situation, there is a spot that you can love if you rebrand failure. This is not ignoring failure and only finding the positives; you still must own the negatives in your life. Only then, after acceptance and reflection, can you begin to rebrand everything that went wrong and turn it into a positive life-point.

This entire thought process is still evolving for me. It is by no means perfect, but it has helped me. I open my mental boxes where I internalize my problems and evaluate every situation I need to for that day or week. This struggle of constant self-reflection and discovery has allowed me to be more open with my loved ones and be at peace with the world that I cannot control. I know I will find something positive about a situation that troubles me. I can be angry and upset at the time. But soon, I will discover how my rebranding of that situation will make me a better person for it.

Always remember that Viagra and Play-Doh were originally meant for something else (Viagra to relieve hypertension and Play-Doh to clean wallpaper). Their failures were rebranded when someone finally saw the positives that they created. Be the mind that can find a use for everything. Be the one who can make life positive, even after a failure or loss. You are your own product, and nothing can stop you from being the best person you can be, except for you and your thoughts.

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© Copyright Whatismyhealth, March 19th, 2017