Failure as a trigger and success a currency for creativity

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The rain finally came down in the wee hours of the morning in my hometown Jalandhar. I slept quite late after watching India lift their second T20 World Cup trophy and Germany play tactically against Denmark in their first knockout of Euro 2024. Late to bed and late to rise. The rain had subsided into a drizzle when I stepped out for my not-so-early morning walk.

The drizzle turned into rain and soon it started pouring harder, the kind of downpour that’s usually enough to bring out pitch covers in a cricket match. My first thought was to prematurely end my walk and retreat to my dry and comfy home. But I had missed two walking sessions in a row and I was determined to end the month with some exercise. So I trudged on.

After about 15 minutes, I was practically drenched. My eyeglasses were full of water and I had to rely on my muscle memory to keep going on the right path. What kept me going was a podcast between an organizational psychologist and a best-selling writer.

At the start of my walk, I found myself cursing the weather gods. But after a while, something changed in me. Not only I had embraced the weather conditions, I had started to enjoy walking in the rain. It was nice to feel water trickling down my face while being tuned into an interesting conversation on failure and success. More importantly, it was a signal to the universe that weather could not deter my routine.

The title of the Re:Thinking episode How novelist Gabrielle Zevin learned to enjoy failure lays out the main idea quite clearly. Zevin is the author of the Goodreads best fiction novel of 2022 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. I found it intriguing to not just accept failure as a reality of life but to like it – and someones even want it – to push your creativity to the next level.

The notion of failure-driven growth is not new, but it’s refreshing to be reminded of the importance of pushing your creative engines to the limits to produce something internally satisfying.

The podcast host Adam Grant was visibly shocked at the writer’s relationship with failure. But he made an interesting observation about how failing is easier when you have the cushioning of previous successes or elite education (Harvard in this case).

I loved how he summarized his conversation with Gabrielle Zevin.

The most important consequence of success is not accolades or fame but the freedom to do what you want to do next. And I actually think that should push us to rethink the very meaning of success. I think the most important measure of success is not status or power or wealth, it’s how much freedom you have. And true success is the freedom to stop caring about anyone else’s definition of success.

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