June 1st, 2011

Thoughts on failure

This year, my big plan was to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats. I failed.

Most people I know haven't made that trip, which is absolutely fine, and I don't think anyone would criticise you/them for that. I also know (or know of) people who have done the trip, and that's a nifty achievement. However, getting partway and then stopping puts me into an odd category, because it feels worse than not attempting it at all. Intellectually, that doesn't really seem right, because it implies that the best approach is never to try anything new or different, thus avoiding the risk of failure.

Maybe it's easiest to explain it in terms of foreign languages. When I was at school, I took French, Greek, and Latin up to GCSE. Other people studied German or Russian, but I only know a few words in those languages. That doesn't bother me: I'm sure that I could learn them if I wanted to, e.g. if I put aside time for them. As it stands, I have plenty of other priorities. However, if I'd picked one of those subjects at school and then failed my GCSE, it would bother me.

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