Why am I not perfect? Short answer: because I am a human being – same as everybody else.
Why am I not as good a cook as Judy? Because she “failed her way to success.” I admire her wondrous spread of exotic cuisine, and she doesn’t tell me about the hundreds of disasters, big and small, along the way, nor the disaster which happened just that day and is not on the table. Each of her failures taught her something; each was a stepping stone.
Why aren’t I able to create clothing designs and patterns from scratch, and turn my visions into something which hangs properly, flatters my figure, and looks fabulous? Because I haven’t spent the hours, I haven’t failed as much as Danny, who filled dumpsters with drawings and things which didn’t go as planned, who spent hours ripping out seams and re-cutting and trying again and again. I look at his best efforts and wonder “why can’t I do that, without all this nasty business of making mistakes and learning?”
Why aren’t I as good at math as that little genius who is still wearing short pants? Because, at the age of three or four, when he was eagerly asking questions and trying to solve problems and being guided and finding his way to a deeper understanding of math, I become frustrated and decided I was “bad at math,” and then did my best to live down to my own expectations.
At times, we can be our own worst enemies. Nobody else can say “can’t” to us and make it stick like we can. It is easier to rebel against others, to say “I’ll show you!” than to say “I’ll show me.”
If we say “I can’t be as good as Suzy,” it’s important to realize that Suzy herself isn’t as good as our ideal of Suzy. We see and enjoy her best. She presents her best to others, not her failures. We’re not comparing ourselves to the real Suzy and Matt and Jody and so forth. we are comparing our real selves, flaws and all, to their best work.
Sergio Juárez Correa, a teacher in Mexico, told his students a story about a donkey who fell in a well. The villagers had no way to lift him out, and he was braying incessantly. The noise disturbed them so much that they threw dirt at him, hoping to shut him up. The dirt slid off his tough hide, and he tucked his head down to protect it. Each shovelful of dirt raised the level of the bottom of the well, and he calmly kept picking up his feet, and rose with the pile. When enough dirt were tossed, the donkey was able to simply step out of the well.
Our failures can be our stepping stones to success. Read here about ten little geniuses who had very dim prospects, who found their way to become very, very good at math. And, by the way, it helps if you start early, but it’s never too late. Correa’s students were already in fifth grade before they discovered how to “fail their way” to very high levels of success, by making stepping stones of their difficulties.