A glorious experiment in failure

“All we are saying is give Pete a chance.”

The crowd was into it, singing along with the band a cheesy version of John and Yoko’s “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

Andy, guitar player and lead singer, had introduced the song by saying, “Our friend Pete is smitten by a young woman who isn’t so sure how she feels about him. Pete’s a great guy. So, let’s tip the scales in his favor as we all ask her to give him a chance.”

It was epic. A packed club, singing for love.

It didn’t work.

I had tried everything. Poetry. Flowers. Art. Music. None of it worked. And that was a beautiful thing.

Yes, it was a beautiful thing to go out in a blaze of glory, hands held up high. I had failed and failed and failed again and I was luxuriating in it.

For years, I had been a bottled up boy, so afraid of failure I avoided putting myself forward. I only went out for sports teams I knew I could make the cut for. I never asked out any girls, even ones I knew were waiting for me to call — they’d given me their numbers, after all. I couldn’t imagine life after rejection.

So, when I finally got shot down, I was ecstatic. I was alive! I had survived my failure to win the girl and life was still so incredibly sweet. Rejection didn’t suck as much as I thought it would. And so I threw myself into a wild barrage of failures. And I survived them all.

It was glorious.

I read recently about Jason, a freelance IT guy in Canada, who was deathly afraid of rejection, as I have often been. So, he set for himself an experiment: Do something every day that fails. Yep. Intentionally do something that gets you turned down every single day.

In some regards, it was an easy experiment. There are so many things that just aren’t just rejections, but assured failures. I can’t do 100 pushups in a row. I can’t do a backflip. I can’t walk a slack line. I can’t sing the high part in Bridge Over Troubled Waters. I can’t stuff 20 marshmallows in my mouth and say, “Chubby bunnies.” I know these things because I’ve tried them. And failed.

But I haven’t made failure or rejection a practice other than that time I tried to get the girl. I’ve stuck with the easy, the known, the do-able.

Putting myself in the place of failure or rejection like Jason requires not only doing things I know I can’t do because of past failures, but things I’m not certain about. And those uncertain areas are actually areas of potential success.

If I tried really hard, could I get Bono to have lunch with me? Probably not, but maybe.

If I tried really hard, could I learn to play guitar like Eric Clapton? Probably not, but maybe.

If I tried really hard, could I sell an ice maker to an Eskimo? Probably not, but maybe.

Could I juggle five balls? Could I memorize the Sermon on the Mount? Could I climb Kilimanjaro? Could I lose 20 pounds? Could I get an acting job in a Star Wars movie? Could I learn Italian?

The problem is that those question marks and many more never have any story that follows them, because I never do anything to answer them. I never try.

Choosing to fail means refusing to be ruled by fear.

Choosing to fail means choosing to risk success.

All we are saying is: Give it a chance.