Life can often feel like walking a tightrope, struggling to balance between extremes like ambition and contentment, confidence and humility, success and failure. We are taught to do our best, to strive for success, but also accept the reality of setbacks, and failure.
One of my favorite activities is boffer, a game spent running around in a field, dodging discs and striking with my sword, all in an effort to either take the other team’s flag, or protect our own. Unfortunately I’ve never been the best at physical activities. My reflexes are far from fast, and I often second guess myself, asking “what if”, “what if I attack while they’re distracted”, “what if I stay and protect the healer”, etc. Then I wondered, “what if I didn’t use a standard sword? What else could I make using PVC?”
So I began experimenting, first with heating and bending the PVC, and then with joints, using two T joints to create an H shaped piece, which I dubbed a halberd. Along the way I asked around, confident that others had tried and abandoned the idea for some reason. Turned out joints had a habit of breaking far too quickly, but I still wanted to try.
On Saturday I had the chance to finally try one in a real game, and sure enough, within a few minutes it snapped like a twig. And I felt…good? I wasn’t angry or frustrated, on the contrary, I felt happy. Not because it broke, but because I tried something new, and that now, having seen what went wrong, I could try again, using what I’d learned to try and solve the problem.
It’s so easy to perceive failure as a negative when it’s actually an essential opportunity for learning. Success is the prize, but we have to earn it. Before we can receive our reward, we have to do something worthy of praise, and that means stepping off the well beaten path and into the untested wilderness, where anything could be lurking. We will stumble, we will fail, but we will also learn. Success is where we all want to be, but more often than not it’s failure that points the way.