Failure of Success, The
Redefining what matters
Success good, failure bad? Each holds the germ of the other. They are more alike than you think.
The concepts of success and failure are embedded in our culture, but how real are they?
From a wide range of answers and her own experience, Jennifer Kavanagh explores some of the stereotypes on which these concepts are based, and reveals what people feel really matters in their lives. There is a growing acceptance that failure can not only lead to success but can open us to profound change. If we let go of the quest for individual perfection, and accept what is, our lives and relationships will be enriched. If we let go of our judgemental behaviour, we will no longer view life in terms of success or failure. If we let go of the need to control our lives, we will let go of goals and expectation. If we let go of our attachment to outcomes, we will be content with where and who we are. We may even go beyond the duality of opposites to an understanding of essential unity.
Putting one foot in front of the other, neither afraid of failure nor triumphant with success. Living, in other words.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
- Is your attitude to life sharply contrasted between white and black – success or failure? If it is, you may find this slim volume helpful and heart-warming. If it isn’t – rejoice in being blessed with contentment.
Jennifer Kavanagh, in her new book The Failure of Success, is deeply concerned to challenge this sharp contrast. She believes that too many people are conditioned to be successful in material terms – examination grades achieved, skills tests passed, income, possessions, career progression and status achieved. She thinks the whole emphasis on success is unhealthy. She thinks it is too widespread in all areas of our culture.
Equally, she is concerned to nurture those who feel a failure and to help them realise that such a label is wholly inappropriate – a point epitomised by Rudyard Kipling in his poem ‘If’:
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same…
She only quotes those two lines. I could not help thinking of the last two lines of that poem, which still conclude with a form of success:
Yours is the earth, and everything that’s in it
And which is more – you’ll be a man my son!
Jennifer Kavanagh has talked to many people – many preoccupied with success and others troubled by failure...
She writes: ‘Success [in the model she is concerned about] is based on a collection of stereotypes, including wealth, property, marriage, children, a circle of friends and being respected in the local community. We may come to believe that we are judged by our house, our car, our job, even the holidays we take. The image of perfection created by an omnipresent edifice of advertising insists that success brings with it a certain body type exuding good health and fitness: the men sporty and tall, the women slim.’
The result of this, of course, is, for many people, ‘status anxiety’. Anyone who doesn’t fit the stereotype is likely to feel a failure. Commercial advertising and community assumptions put pressure on people who feel they don’t rise to what they imagine everyone expects them to.
However, Jennifer points out that failure can open us up to profound change. This change can lead to different ‘successful’ outcomes. She wants us all to stop striving for individual perfection, accept ourselves as we are, and our circumstances for what they are. That way, she believes, our lives and our relationships will be enriched.
... The book contains many interesting examples and their stories are very well told by the author. I found myself wondering why some people get so wrapped up in such preoccupations. Maybe this is because I am fortunate to be very content with my lot.
Jennifer has been a businesswoman and worked as a volunteer in various roles in the community and within Quakerism. She is a Friend and writes and speaks about the Spirit-led life.
The book has a clear, consistent message: ‘be more content with who you are, what you have and what you regard as important in life.’ I feel Jennifer is encouraging everyone to really take to heart the wisdom in Advices & queries 31-42. It urges us to live simply and with integrity, as ‘a simple lifestyle, freely chosen is a source of strength’. ~ Michael Wright, The Friend
New Kavanagh book takes a holistic perspective of failures & the role of judgement, control & attachment to outcomes http://bit.ly/Q8e0jG ~ Admitting Failure @admitfailure, twitter
- This is a slim, wise, thoughtful book. It should be read by anyone who thinks they are a success or a failure! ~ Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, 1997-2003.Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood from 1983 to 2010