People and Society

The Curse of Failure: How Human Is to Err?

People want their lives to be a great green pasture. The shiny, glitzy and the sunny side of life is plastered all over the place for the world to see. When we are soaring, everyone around wants to bask in the glory of success and ride the wave of popularity. But what happens when we hit turbulence?

In a society where an individuals’ worth is determined by their success, there is no scope for failure. It is taboo. Here, failure is not an option. You succeed or either die trying. Be it in the chosen field of education or a relationship you currently invested in. No wonder there is a sporadic rise in number of mental health cases.

Everything is hunky dory until we are set on the predestined path based on the expectations of people we are surrounded by. The penny drops when we veer off track. Philosophically we are offered various platitudes on failure making it seem like a part of life. In reality, that is often not the case.

Failure favourably is looked upon as an earth-shattering incident. In adverse scenarios, all hell breaks loose. In the blink of an eye, the scrutiny begins. Before the person who has suffered a setback has time to piece things together, the person is handed another set of problems to deal with.

The very people who had been singing praises yesterday, start to vilify and persecute in the present. Individuals get tagged with labels of ‘useless’, ‘worthless’ and other synonyms. Constant degradation accompanies the individual as a reminder of their failure till the time their fortunes turn around.

I myself have my own story of failure. I was in academic terms considered a bright student. I slipped up on one of my tests in preparing to get into university. Out of a total of 360, I managed a measly 42. On that disastrous test, I scored just 5 marks in math. Ever since I had to listen to the barb of 5 marks until I got admitted into university.

In university I tried to pursue engineering. By the end of my first year of engineering, I wanted to change my course. By the time I got permission to change my course, I was on the verge of ending my life. Along the way I also picked up the tag of a ‘useless engineer’ and was diagnosed with leukemia.

Though health did flounder, today it is a reason for changing the course of my life. Now I feel I am on a path I have decided based on my opinions. But should a person be hounded for encountering failure? Is it a crime to do so?

I do not think so. I do believe that a shift in perception of failure is trickling in. In recent times, one of the poignant conversations on failure was held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at townhall addressing students at the event ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha’.

When asked on the topic of dealing with pressure and expectations, during the course of his answer he made the following point “When an infant is learning new skills, the child is encouraged to fall and learn from the mistakes. But when the same child grows up, why is it that the child is criticised for making a mistake?”

From our infancy in our growth story we learn right from wrong, good from the bad from our experiences. From our mistakes. But after a certain stage, it becomes unacceptable. The window for error shrinks rapidly. Anything not meeting the criteria of expectations is deemed a failure. Why is it so?

To err is human. There are many quotes and proverbs highlighting the role failure plays in the life of an individual. I have chosen to quote Shah Rukh Khan. According to him, “Success is not a good teacher. Failure makes you humble”. So why is failure treated as a crime? Why is the person suffering the setback treated as a criminal?

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