Chances are you have encountered failure in your life. No, scratch that. If you are alive—which is implied by your reading of this article—then you have failed. Humans begin to fail as early as 8 months old, while learning how to walk; we take our first steps, and inevitably fall. The process of falling, or “failing,” and getting back up is then repeated hundreds of times, until we finally walk—until we learn. That is the great distinction between what Antony Gordon, host of The Antony Gordon Show podcast, explains as “being a failure” and “having failed,” on his recent episode. Given the current state of the country, and the world for that matter, it may seem like failure is to some extent ever-present in our lives. Whether you failed to stay positive and productive amidst the pandemic—an unprecedented situation, with no blueprint or rule book—or if you simply failed to stick to your “quarantine routine,” we are all failing in some way, both individually and collectively which is precisely why there is no better time to take a deep dive into what we perceive as “failure,” and to break down this word, before it breaks us.
Antony is not only a well-respected businessman and Rabbi, but also acts as a life coach to prominent figures in the entertainment industry. Having given countless motivational speeches, to both college students and pro athletes, he is well-versed in the effects of failure on the psyche, and ultimately the trajectory of one’s life. Using examples of vanguards in an array of industries—from Walt Disney and Sylvester Stallone, to Thomas Edison—Antony highlights the reality of success. That even the most respected, and by society’s standards “successful,” people failed thousands of times before they achieved their goal. “The only people that never failed are those who never tried attaining greatness,” he notes.
Yet, it’s not always about breaking records and inventing a life-changing technology. No matter the hurdle put before us or the hit life blows our way, there is only one difference between the victim and the victor; the latter “hits back harder,” Antony explains. He elaborates that it is all in the mindset, in our reactions; we cannot control what comes our way, but we can choose how we react. This is one the greatest, and equally bestowed powers of human nature. We each, no matter our background, color, gender, socio-economic status, or language, are able to choose how we react to a given situation. We can choose to breathe, take a step back, reflect, reset, and come back stronger in our efforts. Alternatively, we can internalize the setback and see ourselves as “being a failure,” rather than having failed. It’s that simple.
Life is cyclical—from the seasons and ever re-blossoming trees, to the luminous moon that waxes and wanes—and humans are no different. On a grand scale and in the day-to-day, we rise and fall, and those who have tenacity, drive, mental clarity, and a firm grip on their emotions, rise once again. What Antony aptly points out regarding this universal struggle in the episode, is the distinction between “giving up” and “giving over.” Meaning: giving over is the understanding and surrender to the flow of life. This does not imply sitting on one’s couch with Netflix blaring, waiting for an opportunity to come knocking on your door. Rather it’s knowing that “I do not control my inbox—what comes my way—but I do control my outbox—my attitude, how I interpret things, how I pivot...how I reply,” Antony states. The metaphor could not be more fitting during our digital age—unless it was concerned with DM messages…
Though the idea of “giving over to the flow of life,” is an age-old principle reiterated by everyone from Zen Buddhists to unshaken Stoics, its priceless wisdom is needed during our current uncertain and chaotic times. Although rooted in the desire to share his take on “failing the right way,” the discussion that emerged can be applied to every aspect of life—and if done correctly, this simple notion has the power to transform your world, and ultimately, our world as a whole. To hear the full episode and catch up on past episodes, head to Spotify or Apple Podcasts for a dose of inspiration.