Rock Bottom & The Taboo of Discussing Failure
The decision making process includes identifying a goal, information gathering, weighing outcomes and consequences, and making a decision. Throw in your principles and alternatives somewhere in the middle and you’ve got a complete and customized method.
In this process, the evaluation of outcomes and consequences differs from person to person. Mind to mind. Some, the more analytical, may run instant cost-benefit analysis in their mind weighing short and long-term effects, others may just have a look, say fuck it and hope the water is deep enough.
I desperately want to be known as the person who looks back, shrugs and jumps. The free-spirit risk taker who is completely confident and bold. And to some, I may appear this way.
Yeah, I’ve pulled over on the side of a highway to jump off a railroad bridge in Cape Cod into the channel below, and I’ve jumped the Porto Venere cliffs on a rumor that Red Bull divers trained there. A rumor spoken to me in broken English from a friend of only two days. On the outside, these decisions appear to embody what I crave to be, but that’s as deep as they go. The outside.
The person who made those decisions is the same person who opens spreadsheets to track the financials of a cross-country move down to the day, the hour, claiming failure is only 5 months 21 days and 2 meals away. The same person who had seen others jump the railroad bridge weeks before, and the same person who “let” his friend jump first in Italy. I bathe in a state of constant analysis, with the hope it leaves me better prepared.
As I write to you this evening, I’ve been preparing for an adventure. An investment, and a gamble on myself. I am less than two weeks from that cross-country move and over the past few months I’ve exhausted emotions, tried to fly once, and worn that “fuck it” attitude.
“Are you excited?” Yes, of course. “What will you do there?” Things. “Where will you live?” Places.
A repeated conversation.
But in private, it’s a completely different story. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m energized. And in those same few months, my “leave no stone unturned” state of analysis failed to comfort, or prepare me.
I hadn’t yet addressed failure, and I needed to. I needed to be ok with that as an option.
So, I radically confronted my rock bottom.
Rock bottom as a noun and adjective share a definition: at the lowest possible level.
Things can’t get worse.
Confronting your rock bottom is an exercise of creating an honest and realistic vision of the environment of your failure. Through this exercise, comfort is delivered. You receive the power to cultivate the courage needed to make difficult decisions. To pursue.
For me, by confronting my rock bottom, I was able to respond to my fears. I answered the question: What happens if I fail?
Here’s my rock bottom: If I fail, I’ll have to move back to Boston, with no money, no income, and live in my parent’s basement. I’ll begin a job search where I ask my network for help and start a new job in a few months, building from the ground up again. I’ll feel embarrassed about how confident I was, and become introverted for some time.
For those who aren’t intimately aware of my current life, allow me. I live in my parent’s basement. For me, the realistic rock bottom, as worse as it gets, is a slightly amplified version of where I am at now, and I feel I am thriving. So why wouldn’t I go for it?
Now, each of us will have a different rock bottom. In mine, I am aware of the privilege I have. A loving family with the ability to harbor me should I fail is an insane privilege that I do not take for granted, but I have to include it because it is my reality. What is shared between us all is the permission we receive from our rock bottoms.
Confronting your rock bottom grants you the freedom to fail, and how exciting is that? Has a voice before so confidently told you, you are able to fail? And has that voice been yours?
The action of addressing your rock bottom grants permission to travel 100 miles per hour in the opposite direction because you know you will survive. Delivered through this exercise is the knowledge of what is underneath you, should that rug be pulled out. This landing mat that you have discovered should energize you. Yes, you may land awkwardly, injure yourself and return completely defeated but those are just moments of water. They will bead, and you will dry. Beginning again.
For too long, discussions of failure have been taboo, and the voice with which I write you tonight has come to destroy that. This idea of confronting our rock bottom strengthens our belief in ourselves. If that is as worse as it will get, how great can it be? We can now spend less time on all the possible answers to what happens if I fail, and devote ourselves completely to our pursuits.
I write this first, for myself. A public journal entry to share a current experience with the hopes it captures a truth that a friend or a stranger may desire. Words of encouragement to identify your rock bottom, admire it, and let it know you have no plans to visit it. But should you, arrive at it with the strength and knowledge that it will not break you, but nest you in your new beginning.
So, whatever it may be, go for it. Unapologetically. Boldly. Confidently, go for it.