Q: For someone who was picked most likely to succeed from his Grade 12 graduating class, I have not done well for myself.
I have failed at most everything that I have tried. I managed to get myself into a university and I graduated with a degree, but I cannot claim much for stellar success since then.
Apparently, not too many employers are interested in hiring someone whose undergraduate work majored in anthropology. Lucky for me, my dad has a huge farm and he is able to put me to work. But even here, I have failed.
Every time that I go to start off on my own, get a piece of land or put money down on some equipment, the whole thing goes sour. I got completely hailed out the last time I tried to get some land and I had to turn it back over to my dad to pay off what I owed on it. I made no money.
On top of that, my wife told me that she is unhappy living out here. She would rather we struggle in abject poverty than continue under the tutelage of my somewhat controlling parents.
She is seriously thinking about leaving. I don’t want to lose my wife. She is a really great person. I love her to pieces.
I don’t want to live in the lines of poverty. It is easy to say that I should bite the bullet and leave my parent’s family home, but if I cannot get a job that pays a decent wage, we will be broke.
Do you have some thoughts that might help to get me going?
A: Years ago, a group of people known as existential psychologists argued with some degree of success that each of us is subject to three fundamental fears: the fear of dying, the fear of loneliness and the fear of failure.
You seem to be caught up in the fear of failure.
Failing in itself is not a problem. It is a simple description of behaviour. The problem is that failing often leads to a self-concept of failure, to the sense that I am a failure as a person and that I am destined to be disappointed and discouraged in whatever it is that I might be interested in pursuing.
Those who see themselves as failures often give up before they start, withdraw into themselves, are bitter and disconcerted in the face of someone else’s success, and refuse to consider the advice and guidance that those with either better experiences or more education have to offer to them.
People who see themselves as failures tend not to take chances on new and different opportunities, they tend to blame others for their problems, they don’t learn from the mistakes they have made in the past, and they opt for security over risk.
As I said, failing at projects or ambitions are not problems within themselves. In fact, they can be the pre-determinants to success.
Many wealthy people declared personal and financial bankruptcies a number of times before they hit their gold mines. Most successful writers have massive collections of rejection notices from publishing houses that refused to print their books or novels or poems before their prize-winning documents made it. Did you know that Dr. Seuss, easily the most successful children’s author ever, was turned down by 20 publishing houses before someone took a chance and published some of his children’s stories?
And because someone took a chance with Dr. Seuss, we all know about Horton Hears a Who and the strange malfeasance of the Christmas Grinch.
If we take responsibilities for our own behaviour, we can learn from our mistakes and strive for more successes the next time around. That is preferable to falling into despair while painting oneself as a failure.
The question you have to ask yourself is where is the next opportunity for you and your wife?