The Beauty of Failure

Don’t let the internet rush you, no one is posting their failures.” – Wesley Snipes

The other day I failed for the second time to guess a Wordle and learned another life lesson as exemplified by this word game. By the way, no knowledge or affinity for Wordle is necessary to understand this life lesson but for anyone who hasn’t tried Wordle and is curious, here are the basics:

You have six tries to guess a five letter word. You are not given any information to start with but when you enter a guess, you are told if you have any right letters and they are green if correct in the right spot and yellow if they are used on the word but in the wrong spot. There is one word per day.

By the third guess I’d figured out the pattern was _ O _ E R

There were too many possible combinations – LOWER, MOVER, CODER, JOKER so I didn’t work out FOYER within the allotted 6 guesses.

But here’s what I noticed – it was WAY easier to fail the second time. The first time ended my 50 win streak and I was pierced, more than felt reasonable for a silly word game.

Noticing this, I think failing helps me shake the belief that I can be perfect. The longer streak that I had, the more brittle I became about not failing. It felt like there’s a longer way to fall, even if it’s just a silly word game.

It reminded me of a definition of perfection that Brené Brown provides in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. “Perfection is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame. It’s a shield. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it is the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.”

I’m not advocating practicing failing. But I am suggesting talking about it and laughing about it when we do. For me, it doesn’t change the impression of anyone around me who are well aware I’m not perfect. But it does penetrate my illusion that I think I can or have to maintain some persona that is impervious to failure. Even the fact that I have an ego still after years of meditating to find the Unity in life needs piercing.

So, thank you, Wordle. Not only for the two minutes of daily entertainment but a few good life lessons too!

(featured photo by Pexels)

Wordle as a Metaphor for Life?

You can’t win a game 7 without losing three games first. Keep going.” – Shea Serrano

As I having trouble solving Wordle the other day, I realized that I have been unusually focused on the word I used to start the puzzle. I’ve asked my friends that also play it what word they use. I’ve tried a few different ones myself, often using S-T-E-R-N since it represents some of the letters used most frequently used in English.

[For anyone who hasn’t tried to play this game that was recently bought by the NY Times, Wordle is a game where you have six tries to guess a common five letter word. You are not given any information to start with but when you enter a guess, you are told if you have any right letters and they are green if correct in the right spot and yellow if they are used on the word but in the wrong spot. Letters can be repeated. There is one word a day and everyone gets the same word so rest assured, this post doesn’t reveal today’s wordle.]

But as I typed in my word and got the result that the answer had none of those letters, I realized that knowing what isn’t in the word is equally as important.

The absence of a positive result is also informative.

It makes me think of a story about Thomas Edison. As he was trying to invent the light bulb, he tried more than a hundred different types of materials to use for the filament. Someone asked if he got discouraged and he said that he didn’t because each failure told him one more thing that didn’t work.

So Wordle is just the latest reminder that life is best met by continuing attempts to try. Every failure is just another opportunity to see what doesn’t fit. When I feel great resistance to something I’m doing in work or parenting, it presents an opportunity to think about whether I should push harder or try another tactic.

Some of life’s lessons are the hardest because we learn what not to do. But they are also some of the most valuable lessons, especially when we are able to distill the information and heal the trauma.

I did finally get the Wordle on the sixth try – phew! Because there weren’t very many letters left to combine into a common word (letters in dark gray on the keyboard indicate they have been tried and are not used in the word). It reminded me yet again, failure is an excellent source of information. Here it is in case you want to guess.