Today we ask that you cultivate acceptance of “failure.”

There is no such thing as “failure,” but people have an understanding of it as a very negative, unpleasant experience.

To fail is to prove that you are worthless, stupid, and incompetent.  Failures are rejected by society.  Failure is the opposite of success.  Failure feels terrible — like a kind of death.  Most suicides are, in fact, linked to a sense of failure.

So naturally most people want to avoid failure at any cost.  They may even live their lives with “avoidance of failure” as their primary goal.  It doesn’t really matter what they do, so long as no one else ever calls them a failure.  Such people tend to enter very “safe” professions, and lead very “safe” lives.  There may be very little joy, meaning, or pleasure in their lives, but at least they are not failures.

Of course, even if your primary goal is the avoidance of failure, one can never really be in control of external events.  Even the most risk-averse people in the world are not immune to disease, economic and social upheaval, natural disasters, and other events — no matter how well-insured they may be, no matter how much money they save.

This way of life is actually very insane.

So many people lead lives of utter misery, because they are so afraid of failure.  They enter professions they don’t like, and spend their days in work they may find dull and meaningless — all to avoid failure.  Such people inevitably teach their children to live the same way.

It is madness.

Babies are not born afraid of failure.  If they were, they would never learn to do anything.  They would never learn to walk, or talk.

You see, “failure” and “learning” are actually the same thing.

“Failure” is “learning.”

If you are afraid to fail, then you are afraid to learn.  And then you will not really do anything.  Nothing new, anyway.

Unfortunately, most education teaches children to fear and dread failure.  This is counterproductive to the entire point of education, which is learning.  This is why so many students go through school without learning much.  They are so afraid of failure, that they do not really learn.  Even if they memorize answers to fill out on a test correctly, they are not really learning.  They will soon forget what they have memorized.

That is because their primary goal in school is not learning.  It is the avoidance of failure.

Thank goodness babies are not born afraid to fail.

Any human who has ever really created meaning and beauty in the world has done so either because he was somehow raised to be unafraid of failure, or else overcame his fear of failure.

It is very hard to overcome this fear, so deeply ingrained is it in most people.  People who tend to “sabotage” themselves are really dealing with fear of failure.  If you cripple yourself, then no one can call you a failure.

Sometimes people become very sick in their bodies and minds as a defense against the fear of failure.  If you are sick, then it is a defense against other people’s judgment.  No one can give you an “F” if you are sick.  It is like you have a doctor’s note from the universe.  For some people, the dread of failure is so intense that physical sickness is the only thing that keeps them from committing suicide.  If they did not have a “doctor’s note”, then they would have no excuse, no way to justify their existence.

It is terrible.  It is just terrible.

There are ways to get over the fear of failure.

One is to engage in an activity that is challenging, but in which there is a nurturing learning environment.  That is why it can be very healing for people to take a yoga class, or a dance class, or a pottery class.

In such an environment, you are encouraged to try new things.  It is okay to “fail.”  It is clear that “failure” is simply part of the learning process.

It is very good to find teachers who create loving, nurturing environments for learning.  Such teachers are invaluable, and do a great service to the world.

One great teacher can make up for a dozen bad ones.

Learning under the tutelage of a great teacher — even if it is something as simple as learning how to knit a scarf — can help to completely rewire your brain.

If you are someone who suffers from a deep fear of failure, the more you can expose yourself to good teachers and nurturing learning environments, the more rapidly you will heal.

And for those of you who dedicate your lives to teaching others — know that there is no greater gift you can give than helping people feel safe to learn and grow.