Failure is a part of life. Sometimes success is as well. But both can be funny things. One man’s success can be another man’s failure, and vice versa.
I have felt as if I am failing on multiple fronts lately. But sometimes it is the fear of failure that keeps us going.
I will keep the discussion to three types of failure. The first is if you want something and then do not put out the effort to achieve it. The second is if you want something, and mount an all-out effort to achieve it, but fall short. The third is if you work for something that you think you should want, but you realize you don’t really want it when you either achieve it or fail to achieve it. Most of life’s failures fall into some kind of continuum between those three.
But I want to give an example of something I tried to achieve many years ago, and how I convinced myself that a partial success was a terrible failure.
This is photograph of two leafy liverworts was taken at Cedar Bluffs State Preserve in Mahaska County, Iowa. I think the lower one is Conocephalum conicum and the upper one is Pressia quadrata. At slightly different times in the spring, little structures will grow out of the base on stalks–they are the sporophyte portion of the plant. These structures are extremely short lived, and are present for about a week in the spring. I had hoped to get photos of this same clump, first with one, then the other. I had success with one, but failed on the second.
So I beat myself up about it for a while. There was never a real opportunity to go back and get the other photo–nature photography can be pretty time sensitive.
I still have the photo with the sporophytes, but it is medium format film, and the very expensive scanner I used to scan this photo is obsolete, and only works on the computer that is sitting on a shelf in the basement, not hooked up.
I probably will not attempt to take a similar photo in the future–Cedar Bluffs is about an hour and a half away, plus the half hour walk to the site where the photos were taken (half an hour when I used to be in better shape than now).
So was that success or failure? A little of both, I think. But at the time I was devastated, considering it to be a complete failure.
So we plug along through life, seldom succeeding completely, but seldom failing completely. And our views about our own success or failure mellow with time.