As usual, when a certain issue starts tugging at my heart, everything around me begins swirling around the subject to prepare me for my lesson. Recently, the discouraging topic of failure arose during a thoroughly encouraging conversation with a friend.
We discussed how Life, like water in nature, moves along until its flow is disrupted by an object, at which point the water will move around, through, or over the object so that it may continue moving forward. Such is the flow of Life. Like water, life will find its own channels, even creating its own path. I believe that water, one of the most powerful forces on the planet, does not recognize this change in direction as failure. Perhaps these obstructions are the way that life guides us, keeping us on this journey which is ours, and ours alone.
This photo was taken a few weeks ago in the studio. I watched in awe as the intricate design began slowly take form. The water from my palette, stained with blue paint, crept its way into the white paint, creating its own path to make this beautiful pattern.
I then came across Conan O'Brien's 2011 commencement address at Dartmouth College, during which he said:
There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized...
One's dream is constantly evolving, rising and falling, changing course. This happens in every job, but because I've worked in comedy for 25 years, I can probably speak best about my own profession. Way back in the 1940's, there was a very, very funny man named Jack Benny. He was a giant star, easily one of the greatest comedians of his generation, and a much younger man named Johnny Carson wanted very much to be Jack Benny. In some ways he was, but in many ways he wasn't. He emulated Jack Benny, but his own quarks and mannerisms, along with the changing medium, pulled him in a different direction. And yet, his failure to completely become his hero made him the funniest person of his generation. David Letterman wanted to be Johnny Carson, and was not, and as a result, my generation of comedians wanted to be David Letterman. And none of us are. My peers and I have all missed that mark in a thousand different ways, but the point is this:
It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It's not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention.
If we can perceive these stumbling blocks as the stepping stones that will help redirect us to our path, we gain the ability to find meaning, purpose, and appreciation in life. And as we adapt to new realities, processing the pain, anguish, and disappointment that is caused by these perceived failures, our character is developed and strengthened, and our evolution is called forth. We are now able to see the possibilities that we might have never known existed for us. And because our own path is unique, these possibilities exist just for us if only we will claim them as our own.
The ancient wisdom of water tells me this is true.