Entry 104: Defining Failure


Location: Guangzhou, China

On May 24, 2013, I had a singular goal. I plotted with my counterparts as we flew away from the mountains of Zhangjiajie towards the city of Guangzhou. There we would find a market filled with elaborate fabrics and tailors who would in turn craft the pieces we sought. Tonight, we would get tailored suits from the streets of Canton, an obsession, albeit odd, that had filled our thoughts since our arrival in China.

Over the last eleven days, we made small efforts to find a tailor in Beijing and Shanghai, but truthfully, we were waiting for Guangzhou. Here we would find the market we had heard so much about. Over the span of a few hours we wandered through the markets, fumbling through conversations and following various guides attempting to help us without success. This act continued throughout the remaining days we spent in China with the same result. Amongst the few tailors we found there was always a problem, often a lack of time or too high a price. On the flight home, we could not help but reflect on our lack of success.

Despite our inability to acquire custom suits, it was difficult to reflect on our travels and call anything a failure. Strictly speaking, we did in fact fail to achieve our objective, but defining failure does not have to be simplistic. Our desires had taken us further into the depths of various cities and caused us to dive deeper into the Chinese culture through exposure to new people and experiences.

I could cite similar experiences of objective failure that lead to a whole manner of things I never intended. There was my failed attempt to start a career that lead me to work at a music festival or my inability to catch a flight that allowed me to have an amazing conversation with a stranger. I can say with certainty that I could write about my own failures without end, only to realize that many of them come coupled with an experience that I could have never anticipated.

Failure is not always a matter of black and white, objectives may not lead to their desired end, but the attempt to find or achieve something (whether it results in success, failure, or a much more likely status of in between) will lead to transformation.