When I was born, my dad wrote me a letter. He was older than the average father when I was born—46. The idea was that if he died, I’d have a piece of him left to read after he was gone. I’m happy to say, 30 years later, he’s still around. Last year, he decided to let me read the letter early.
You know what the main theme of the letter was? It’s never too late to start over. To build a new life. To dream a new dream. To become a better version of yourself.
Now, this was kind of an odd theme for a man who has been married to the same woman for the last 51 years, and spent the entirety of his career in academia. He was simply born at a time when starting over was less common. So he didn’t really need the advice. But perhaps he knew I would.
As a perfectionist, it can be especially hard to fail, and even harder to collect the pieces and start over. But you know what I’ve found?
The times in my life that I’ve experienced the least failure have simply been the times I haven’t been trying hard enough.
That probably sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s not. There are scientific studies that show that girls, from a very young age, would rather do nothing than do something imperfectly.
And I think we’re missing out on so much, because we’re failing to acknowledge that something can be fantastic without being perfect. Failing to recognize that one step forward when we were reaching for five does not negate that monumental step. We’re not noticing our own progress, and we’re stunting our own growth.
What if, instead, we viewed our lives as ever-editable drafts? Drafts in which we can erase here, add there, sharpen, critique, scrap, begin anew, incorporate influences and change as much as we please? What if we recognized that we don’t just create one life and live it—we are creating life all the time.
Would that mindset make you less afraid to fail? Would that mindset put the impossible within reach?
I hope one day soon, you do one thing that you're terrified you won't be able to do. I hope that even if you fail, you're surprised by how far you made it. Surprised by how brave you are. Surprised by how possible everything seems.