04:41:48 pm on
Monday 26 Jun 2017

Failure
David Simmonds

Failure is a big industry these days. Every week or two, we hear reports of some high tech executive saying he wants to hire people that have tried something and failed.


Failure has attained institutional stature.

To put the icing on the cake, next month the “Museum of Failure” is going to open in Helsingborg, Sweden. Admission is free. The museum will display over sixty examples of product failures, such as Google Glass and Harley-Davidson perfume under the unifying slogan of “learning is the only way to turn failure into success.”

What is the purpose of failure, you ask? “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently,” said Henry Ford. “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success,” stated C S Lewis. Even Johnny Cash got in on the action: “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping-stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time or any of your space.”


Failure comes in assorted flavours.

You can conduct an experiment that either fizzles or blows up your house. You have failed in both cases and you may have learned the same lesson with either outcome. Still, it may take you much longer to be ready to try again in the second instance.

Failure, say some, breeds the resilience needed eventually to succeed. Winston Churchill described success as “going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Maya Angelou said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Let us not forget the immortal Calvin Coolidge, who said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than [are] unsuccessful men with talent are. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Suppose that, in addition to a healthy crop of failures on your resume, you have enthusiasm, self-knowledge, persistence and determination. Even suppose you have talent, genius and education to boot. None of those qualities or achievements guarantees success, although they may shorten the odds in your favour.

Timing and chance play a large role in failure, as well. These are beyond your control. It’s enough to deter the hardiest specimen from attempting to transform failure into success.

One element that is under your control, as authors of self-help books like to remind us, is that you can define for yourself what constitutes success. If you can’t find a job that pays you a decent wage, well, redefine yourself as successful because you are living an ascetic existence, free from the strains of the material lifestyle. Problem solved!

Well, hold on just a minute on that one. A recent book entitled, “The Wellness Syndrome,” takes dead aim at those who spout the view that life challenges are all within our own control. You can’t ignore the fact, say the authors, that a failure to obtain suitable employment may be just as much or more the result of economic policy than a failure of personal karma.


Talent and luck might lead to early success.

Maybe we should take some comfort in the fact that there are those who say that success, too soon, can be toxic. Good judgment and maturity come from the rough and tumble experiences of starting at the bottom and working your way up, they say. Success too early in life leads to aimlessness in mid-life. The early success of those who are both gifted and lucky, Time magazine uses Taylor Swift as its example, can lead to an unhealthy expectation among the rest of us that success is the norm and a crushing defeatism when one can’t measure up to the standard.

Just think, but for fortune, I could have been another Justin Bieber. I could be egging houses in Malibu, urinating in trashcans and generally putting my adolescence on display for the world to see. No sir, that’s not for me. Give me failure every time, especially if I get to redefine it as success.

 

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur
Thursday 17 July 2017 to Sunday 6 August 2017.
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