Our culture talks about success and failure as though they were almighty and opposite ends of some sort of spectrum. They are more similar than different and they have the power to destroy us if we let them.
A story ...
Chiura Obata, a Japanese immigrant and painter arrived in the US in 1903, intending to stay only a short while before moving on to Paris to study his art. As a young man he was a domestic servant and he was one of the co-founders of the first Japanese-American baseball teams on the mainland. In 1927, he visited Yosemite National Park and he was so moved by the beauty of the land, he remained for two months, traveling and painting what he called "great nature". His exhibitions brought great joy and "new eyes" to Americans. He became an illustrator and commercial decorator. Eventually, he became a faculty member in the Art Department at the University of California at Berkeley. But his work was interrupted by WWII, and he was forced to spend well over a year in internment camps for Japanese. He created an art school within the camps and when he was transferred to the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah, he became the Founder and Director of the Topaz Art School. Post-war, he continued to exhibit and for many summers, he returned to his beloved Yosemite with his wife to teach art and talk about art in nature.
I tell Mr. Obata's story because of his approach to his life's work. Success and failure. Mr. Obata had equal opportunity for both.
"Success or failure is not my aim in life. Whether I be a flake of snow or only a drop of dew, I do not care. I wish only to paint with gratitude to nature in my heart, and with sincerity in my brush. This is my future. This is my biography." Chiura Obata
I don't know the angst he suffered. I can't know how he felt when he met fear and doubt, anger and injustice. But I am inspired by his idea of not having success as the goal. I smile when I think about there being no such thing as failure. Removing the unspoken onus attached to them is like clearing a path to my joy and I am unburdened.
Our society grows things backwards. Despite itself, there is brilliance and innovation and beauty and humor and joy. When we meet a boulder bigger than our mind's capacity for strength to move it, if we can recall the thought that success or failure is not the point, it becomes a pebble on the path, respect for its part in building a good life.