The Rewards of Failure

Don't get discouraged because of failure, instead look and make the most out of negativity's positivity.

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Excerpted from Wake Up and Live! by Dorothea Brande with the permission of Tarcher/Penguin. Copyright 1936 by Dorothea Brande.

Absurd as it may seem at first consideration that anyone would solemnly enter into even an unconscious conspiracy to fail, it is a matter of observation  that there is hardly one person in a hundred who does not, in some fashion, deliberately cripple and thwart himself. To understand why this should be so it is necessary to examine for a chapter what may be called, without paradox, the rewards of failure.

The recent widespread interest in all branches of psychology has accustomed us to accepting an idea which, when first offered, seemed laughable: that we are all, at some level, engaged most of the time in revery. We dream either consciously or unconsciously, awake or asleep, of a situation in which we feel we should be happier than we are in real life. Occasionally some childish idea of happiness or success crops up to confuse or hamper us in the business of adult living. Sometimes the dream is of a life of luxurious idleness, the childish Unconscious determined on refusing to leave the safe shelter of the nursery, where all wants were remedied as soon as felt, where warmth and food and love were given freely and unearned. As Emerson wrote, long before we had any technical vocabulary to express that backward- turning revery, long before we knew of “fixations” or of “narcissism,” “We do not believe there is any force in today to rival or recreate that beautiful Yesterday. We linger in the ruins of the old tent where once we had bread and shelter.” To some extent this is true of all of us, but less true of the happy and successful adult than of others.


At other times, ludicrously enough, the life- wasting revery is about success: the mild man is a Napoleon of war or finance, the mouse- like woman a siren. If reality never broke in upon such revery, the dreamer might be happier, self-absorbed in his silent tale-spinning, than if he were to find himself in a position to realize some part of it. Such revery is in itself compensation for a life of dull routine or uneventful monotony. But, the world being what it is, the dreamer must live, for part of his time at least, in the cold atmosphere of fact. This is no Land of Cockaigne that we inhabit: roast pigs do not run about crying “Eat me!” Fruit does not fall from the trees into our mouths. However blissful the day-dream we entertain, we must wake from it sometimes and struggle with the hard conditions of real living.

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Dorothea Brande
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