Sometimes failure when you are young seems more hazardous. You are at a more fragile point in your life, you are less savvy and therefore more prone to mistakes, and you have your whole life ahead of you so early missteps seem like they will haunt you for yours to come. But Catherine Baab-Muguira’s piece “The good news about failing at absolutely everything in your 20s” provides insightful advice to people embracing failure early in their creative careers:
- Your 20s are a good time to “fail early, fail often.” – Take advantage of the relatively low stakes. Chances are that mortgages and kids aren’t a part of your problem set just yet (or if they are, you still have a lot of energy). Failure is a useful data point.
- Sometimes what you’re encountering is not failure but a “gravity problem.” – Once you accept the basic truth of the situation, you’re in better position to adjust to the constraints.
- The straight path is often an optical illusion – Overnight success is largely a myth. It’s worth remembering that you probably don’t know the gory details of the story. Trust me: that Instagrammer with the seemingly perfect life has also spent her fair share of nights crying and staring at the ceiling, worried out of her mind about money and love. It’s just part of the human condition.
- Rationalization can be a beautiful thing – Daniel Gilbert notes that humans aren’t great at predicting what will actually make them happy. At the same time, we are pretty good at rationalizing what does happen. In other words, rationalization is an important, underrated coping skill.
- Some fantastic art has been made about failure, too – Is it any wonder that the best TV made by millennials, including Insecure and Girls, is all about one’s 20s playing out as a confused, chaotic mess? Many artists have made great work out of their misspent youths. Just a few examples include Meghan Daum (see her essay: “My Misspent Youth”) and nearly every poem Philip Larkin ever wrote. Your mistakes can give you something to say to the world. And nothing breaks the ice like admitting your life hasn’t worked out quite according to plan.