I was rethinking how I see success and failure. I’ve been learning that I’ve been more afraid of succeeding than I ever have been of failing. I was thinking maybe we can look at failure like a seed. We don’t know what kind of seed it is, but all we have to do to keep it a seed is simply not try.
Don’t give it sunlight.
Don’t even drop it into the ground.
Success is the tree that seed could be, and that is scary because it carries possibility. What kind of plan will the seed grow up into? It could bear fruit and nourish others, or branch out into the sky, reaching ever far and in every which way; twisting, turning, touching. It might not even end up a tree. Maybe it’s a cactus, prickly and coarse on the outside, standing sentry over a barren, flat landscape, yet full of life deep down.
Success is unknown, and you have to dedicate yourself to maintain it. The seed is safe. That’s what makes failure attractive. Failure is no effort. Failure is comfortable.
Success is more.
Success is possibility, and possibility is unknown. Success is a planted seed that starts to take root then grow. The more the seed grows, the more the possibilities of success branch out into an endless tree of possibilities. But the more success there is, the greater the possibilities, the higher the tree grows, the more branches sprout, and the farther to fall. Ad infinitum.
But say that you succeed all the way and achieve something you always wanted. This is not bad, nor should it be scary, but when you’re afraid of success it is terrifying enough because you can only know yourself in the present, and the ‘you’ in the present does not know what he wants in the future, or what it will look like.
Maybe, he thinks, he doesn’t want to end up married to anyone he currently knows in his life. So he doesn’t make an effort to test that.
Or maybe, she thinks, she doesn’t want to chase her dreams of making art, and grow into more of a tree than she ever could have imagined, but not flourish enough to satisfy her parents.
Maybe they just think that no matter how good they are, they could never keep it up, so they never take the chance to find out what kind of seed they can garden.
Instead, he holds onto that seed, and the seed is failure as long as it stays in the palm of his hand.
But that seed is also selfishness and comfort, because he knows if he never tries to plant it he never has to find out if it will grow or not, or in case it sprouts, how it might further bloom.
Success is a mysterious tree of possibility, and failure is not terrifying or daunting. It’s just another face of success. It’s the face that views of success — that seed that is being held onto — and can’t conquer the fear the the seed might do nothing more than wilt after a miserable short life.
I know what failure looks like, but success is mystery. I’m terrified of what I don’t know.