MAK­ING FRIENDS WITH FAIL­URE

She­hzad Yunus picks him­self up to start again.

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE -

In to­day’s world, teem­ing with mo­ti­va­tional gu­rus and self-help pros will­ing to share their tips on how to be­come su­per suc­cess­ful, I am a mis­fit. I am the fallen an­gel you missed in the Bible of life. I will not take you down the scenic tree-lined path to suc­cess. In­stead I will talk about the one thing that scares the liv­ing day­lights out of you, the one word that you fear and loathe the most: fail­ure.

Sure, many of your gu­rus have touched upon fail­ure they faced when they strug­gled. But what about fail­ure that comes af­ter a long and il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer? I am not talk­ing about you trip­ping on some silly mis­take or bad judg­ment along the way, get­ting up, dust­ing your­self off and mov­ing on. I am talk­ing about the almighty fall from the top of the cliff right into an end­less pit. You can’t even dust your­self off, be­cause you haven’t stopped fall­ing yet. It’s a con­stant, ag­o­nis­ing, tor­tur­ous fall. And the fact that I am stand­ing in front of you to­day and not in a heap is proof that I sur­vived it and lived to tell my story.

I would be ly­ing if I told you the thought of end­ing my life didn’t cross my mind dur­ing some mo­ments of weak­ness, but my re­li­gious be­liefs and the mere thought of never see­ing the fam­ily I love again held me back from the para­pet of de­spair.

Let me help you reimag­ine suc­cess and fail­ure metaphor­i­cally. Suc­cess is all those amaz­ing friends who show up at your party, cheer­ing you on, bask­ing in your glory, eat­ing your food, danc­ing with reck­less aban­don. Fail­ure, on the other hand, is the friend that stays back and helps you clean up; it tells you stuff your ‘amaz­ing friends’ would never have told you. But be­cause you are high as a kite (suc­cess can be so in­tox­i­cat­ing), fail­ure’s words of wis­dom seem bit­ter.

Let me shake you up a lit­tle from your slum­ber. Fail­ure is your clos­est friend. Suc­cess only told you to take, it only gave you a fake sense of supremacy. But fail­ure ac­tu­ally wipes your tears, sits you down and gen­tly tells you where you have gone wrong. And it stays with you un­til you are out of the woods.

Fail­ure never minces words. You could turn a deaf ear to it and wal­low in self-pity. Bitch and moan about how the world brought you down. And while you are blam­ing oth­ers for your down­fall, ask your­self this re­ally im­por­tant ques­tion: “Did you ever give credit to the world for your rise, Mr. Self­made Man?” No? Then you have no right to whine about the world be­ing be­hind your fail­ure. Sim­ply put, it’s now en­tirely in your hands. And I am no saint, folks. I had my mo­ments of point­ing fin­gers at the world. I will say this with ab­so­lute cer­tainty, that the world, my ad­ver­tis­ing world, is one ruth­less place. When you are on top, sit­ting on that seat of power, you are king. But Heaven help you when you lose that throne and are plunged into ex­ile.

What­ever I tell you is from my best friend fail­ure. Fail­ure sat by my side when I tried to reach out to all my in­dus­try friends for a job. For ev­ery email that re­jected me, fail­ure told me never to give up. It held my hand and kept telling me, “It ain’t over un­til it’s over.” And I would look it in the eye and say “I have won 60 in­ter­na­tional awards, I was ranked sec­ond in the world in 2012, I was a leg­end. How can they do this to me?” Fail­ure looked at me with tear­ful eyes and I re­alised my folly. I was still cling­ing on to the suc­cess that had left me. Still hold­ing on to mem­o­ries of it.

Let­ting go wasn’t easy, trust me. It’s hu­man na­ture; we all live off our past achieve­ments. But the key­word here is ‘past’. I had to break free from it. I had one choice: to per­ish or per­sist. And to per­sist with life, I had to kill my­self.

Re­lax! I am not go­ing sui­ci­dal. I am talk­ing about killing the man I once was. I had to rise from the ashes. It was ei­ther be re­pu­di­ated or be re­born. I started work­ing on my re­birth.

I knew that while emo­tion­ally I was a to­tal dis­as­ter, pro­fes­sion­ally (and cre­atively) I had evolved. I was burst­ing with path-break­ing ideas. I was more en­light­ened now than I ever was in my hey­day.

Once the new me was con­ceived, the ges­ta­tion pe­riod wasn’t too long. Seven years with fail­ure had made me pa­tient. Surely I could wait for a few months. The pe­riod of un­learn­ing was amaz­ing. I stepped out of my com­fort zone and tread a dif­fer­ent path.

It felt odd in the be­gin­ning to start all over again at 50. What ex­actly did I choose to do? When all you do is sit and wait for op­por­tu­nity to knock on your door, you’d bet­ter make the best chair to sit on. And that’s ex­actly what I did. I fol­lowed my new calling: chair de­sign. Who­ever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks needs to get bit­ten by a ra­bid dog. I taught my­self how to use SketchUp Pro to cre­ate unique, one-of-a-kind fur­ni­ture, and Keyshot to ren­der pho­to­re­al­is­tic images of my cre­ations.

It gave me im­mense plea­sure. I felt alive again. I felt like a new per­son. I worked night and day hon­ing my skills. I was al­ways no­to­ri­ous for my abil­ity to come up with shock­ingly sim­ple and orig­i­nal ideas, so it was a very easy and nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. The prin­ci­ples of cre­ativ­ity were the same.

I went on to cre­ate fur­ni­ture that was unique, sim­ple and highly con­cep­tual. I wanted the lines be­tween art and fur­ni­ture to blur. I set out to cre­ate fur­ni­ture that was orig­i­nal, unique and thought­pro­vok­ing. It was a mod­est start. And the most amaz­ing thing about it was not hav­ing to carry the bag­gage from the past. I was new. I was fresh. I was un­sure. And the an­tic­i­pa­tion of be­ing on a new jour­ney made me feel young again.

The re­mark­able thing about this new jour­ney was the ab­so­lute ab­sence of the fear of fail­ure. Why would I be afraid of my best friend? In fact, when fail­ure proudly looked at the body of new work I had done and silently started pack­ing its bags, I yelled at it, “Where do you think you are go­ing?”

“You don’t need me any­more. Suc­cess awaits you at the end of this path,” it said.

“I have the per­fect place for you my friend. Deep in­side my heart. Where I can lis­ten to you and con­tinue to learn from you,” I im­plored.

So, you see, it’s not hard. I may not find suc­cess again. But the only thing that will keep me go­ing is... my friend fail­ure. I prom­ise, I won’t sit still. Not even on the chairs I make.

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