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Failure is an option

Failure is possible, but we need not fear it.

"We must accept that failure is a possibility." - Lama Dechen Yeshe Wangmo

So often, situations call for us to demonstrate courage, bravery, determination, and fortitude. In situations like these, there is a strong motivation to muster these qualities by trying to convince ourselves that failure is not an option, and since it is not an option, we must now find within us whatever will ensure success.

But failure is a very real option, even when we HAVE gathered our powerful qualities and mustered the very best of our intentions toward success. Admitting this, initially one feels a deflation of confidence, then a kind of heaviness or gloom creeps in, and a strong temptation to give up might come upon us, only to be snagged by the passing bird of hope and carried aloft once more.

Despite the roller coaster of possible emotional approaches to any endeavor, neither a soaring sense of confidence, nor the fear of failure, nor the temptation to quit are reliable signifiers of success or failure. In fact, it could even be argued that no matter what one's emotional state, approach, or labors, success and failure are somewhat false terms to describe the result of any endeavor, for each endeavor will have parts that defy such a blanket characterization. In some of our greatest moments of commercial success, for example, we may have risked or incurred very real relationship failures. Amidst the degradation of any situation that is failing, there are still gems of wisdom and comforting relationships to be rescued from the rubble.

This is why, rather than merely judging the success or failure of any situation based on our emotions, or even based on the end result, it is actually in the steps along the way and the skillfulness with which we handled these that we find anything of lasting value. When emotions, and even physical results of actual endeavors, have turned to dust and blown away in the winds of time, what will remain sturdy is the quality of character that we developed and displayed during the course of our activities. Only this quality of character, attached to the living, breathing body and the timeless spirit, can be the true measure of our lives and works.

Therefore, go into every endeavor with the balanced, level eye of one who is deliberately crafting a quality of being, not merely a result. Accept that both success and failure are possible, attempt to remain calm, diligent, and committed whether early signs are positive or negative, ignore the emotional tides that tug you toward excessive pride or that attempt to stifle your enthusiasm, know your limits, be willing to dare breach them when it's right, and do your very best, within and without. It is this process that truly teaches us to release attachment to fear and to attain courage and character.