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Learn to fail by Bonaventure Jideofor

On a warm afternoon, Frank held my attention reluctantly. He described passionately the ‘festival of victories’ on academic level his friend from childhood has been enjoying. The chains of victory were so consistent and significant. As Frank was on that, Kate who was present, graced Frank’s narration with memorable events in affirmation to Frank’s claim since she had known the friend Frank was talking about.

Though I was half involved in the narration, Kate’s exaggerative words left me to say; “Well, he needs to learn how to fail”. The look on Kate’s face was unfriendly. But I went on.

Maybe those words left my lips out of jealousy and intimidation. And you may be justified with such accusation as well as indictment. And I owe you my apologies and beg your forgiveness. But I think we need some clarifications.

It is almost habitual and natural to celebrate victory and glorify the persons involved, but the word “failure” aches the mind. Then, how do we treat failure? Like a never-return-prodigal-feeling? Like the worse enemy of our ego? Like the emotional cancer all detest? I think failure need some space in our minds. I think it is actually ‘nice’ to fail. I think it is naturally justified to entertain or rather celebrate ‘to fail’. “Failure must be your hobby” teased Frank as he readjusts his seat.

To fail is not as bad as it sounds nor as devilish as we imply it. It is not still as bitter as it tastes. Rather it is only a path that strengthens and nurtures us to wisdom, self knowledge and self discovery. To fail is as noble as neutralizing the venoms of pride, rationalization, defense mechanism and continuous nurture of the ego.

Everyone needs to test a slice of failure. It never kills nor impedes growth, rather it is the mismanagement of it that shatters the nerves and turn human beings into beasts and monsters. He whom fate nor circumstance has not allowed to fail or whom has not indirectly experienced failure from parents, relatives, friends and institutes needs to learn the shock of failure. It makes one more human and teaches us that the world is not for Divines but for humans.

Kate, I have a short story for you, Frank actually will not feel good about it. But we all are friends and we have to get along even with the hard truths. "Go ahead dumpy, do not act nice" yelled Frank, giving me a mocking look. Smiling, I continued. On one of our after-lunch-walk, Frank told me how glad he was to reunite with his old time primary schoolmate. During the discussion with her, she told Frank that she has graduated and some more good news. After she was done informing Frank of her achievements. Frank began telling her that he is done with his first degree, that he is on the second degree already and added some other yet-to be-achieved goodies.

Kate, Frank is our classmate and friend and he has never been into any degree class other than this one he and I are struggling to keep a worthy pace on.

However, do you think that frank has learnt to fail? Frank lied in an exaggerative manner since he wants to appear more noble than he is. He did not either want to equate his achievements with his friend’s achievements. But frank chose to double his achievements.

How would frank feel if she finds out that frank only lied? How would frank survive this unfriendly world with such a boasted mindset? Would frank handle failure at all if it eventually comes to him? Or would he take to suicide? And what happens when he refuse to suicide, he may crush whomever that obstruct his path and could negatively manipulate situations just to cover up his failures. That's how most wars in history began!

He that has learnt to fail will not exaggerate his achievements, he that has not leant to fail will find you an enemy when you run pass him either on track events or in the classroom or in our little worlds. For failure happens in the world. Then, why find failure more derogatory than situational, why find it devilish than circumstantial? Why die for it than live to find meaning in it?

Frank, if you can recall the last football match you came as a fan after your injury, our opponent was leading us with two goals ahead. After some long minutes our team led the football into our opponent’s goalpost twice and then led another one into the same goalpost. After our jubilations, as we were returning back to our different wings to kick off again, I observed one of my opponents who has been putting great effort to have the football shake our net. I observed him shake his head in discomfort saying ”It happens!”

Those words have deep meaning to whoever that has learnt to fail. It is a group of words filled with acceptance, maturity and in the Greek word; ataraxia-peace of mind. It reveals the deep truth with failure. It reveals the deep truth in life. It reveals the emptiness but yet the comfort in failure, because it all happens.

It happens that you invest diplomatically all that you have, yet get nothing.

It happens that you could read the whole day, yet fail shamefully.

It happens that you train for the whole week yet lose the game.

It happens that you’ve been devotedly taking care of yourself yet fall sick repeatedly.

It happens that you could give love, yet never loved back.

It happens that you plan to live well, yet die miserably

Since it all happens, learn then to fail. Not because we like it but because we need them. Not because we wish them but because it is psycho-healthy. Because failure happens in the world. "He, was that a speech or something?" said Frank poking me. Immediately, Kate tapped me on the shoulders "how did we get here, Alex?" She said. Heading to the fridge for a drink, "I actually do not like this serious part of me" I said smiling.

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