Learning to Fail
What made The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, the most well-known strategy book on conflict was its practicality even as time passed. It captured the essence of conflict and humans. For me, the book was my inspiration to overcome challenges and achieve success. However, I didn’t truly realize the struggle described by Sun Tzu to be unavoidable. To win the war, I would have to lose some battles.
I feared losing any battles because each loss collapsed my belief in myself. In turn, if I couldn’t believe in myself, my fear would continue to grow. It became a black hole that I couldn’t escape from. I had sheltered myself by giving up multiple opportunities with the justification that someone else deserved it more. I had centered my life belittling my existence, thinking I didn’t have the ability to change the tide of war. It was only when my father, who had seen me struggle with my internal depreciation, repeated the same line as Sun Tzu. Although a bit cliche, it happened to come in a metamorphic time in my life. The time in which a person has to decide their future path, knowing that the opportunities give now would not last once becoming an adult. If I had continued to stay in a hole, I would have automatically given up my rights to win many future battles and wars. So I decided that I must rise and head toward every battle until I learned to enjoy the struggle. Through constant struggle, I developed a three-step method that incorporated the accumulative knowledge, such as Sun Tzu’s teaching, which I once thought didn’t apply to myself.
- Restructuring my thought process to be optimistic
“ The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” — Buddha
Building resistance to failure is important. However, despite desiring fame and success, I hid from struggle, making me vulnerable to it. As a result, my constant internal motto about avoiding failure had transformed me into a failure that would collapse at even the slightest chance of risk. So, what I had to do was restructure my automatic thought process when given an opportunity. I wouldn't be calculating my chances of failure. Instead, I would retrain my mind to respond to every risk by envisioning success first foremost. To be pessimistic immediately would lead to a 100% chance fail rate as one would give up before attempting to try. I had to think optimistically so that I could gain the will to act beyond just calculation. If I viewed myself losing the war, I would have automatically lost the battle, whether by running away or by the enemy’s greater confidence.
2. Failing 1000 times is equivalent to succeeding 1000 times
“I haven’t failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”-Thomas Edison
Failing is the hardest part. No one likes to fail. If everyone could choose between winning or losing, there would only be winners. However, in this world, everyone fails at least once. Hence, if failure is inevitable, then retrain not just the thought but the view. Thomas Edison had to fail 10000 times to figure out which material would light up using electricity. He is the most renowned loser but also one of the greatest winners. Failing 10000 times only to gain one success. Although that one success discovery made him successful, the 10000 failures made him great because, from an objective standpoint, it also meant he discovered 1000 methods for it not to work. So it's not training to tackle the pain of failing but merely view failing as new knowledge on not what to do. Failing is inevitable, but what makes humans a great species is that we learn from our mistakes. If one can learn from failure, the result of failing becomes the act of learning. To view each lost battle as a learning opportunity to gain an advantage in the war, I have won another way.
3. Believe in oneself
Out of all Sun Tzu’s quotes, this held the greatest influence. If one can’t believe in themselves, they will never succeed. If the mind consciously doesn’t believe, then it would never subconsciously accept the result, successful or not. Rather than feeling engulfed by success and glory, their self-doubt would make them a slave. My greatest regret is not all the opportunities I gave up but the belief that I didn’t deserve the success I could have achieved. Despite sounding foolish without logic, the point of optimism and belief is that, despite all the battles lost, the war within oneself is always won. That one win is the war that everyone could win and that no one should lose.