The biggest, baddest F-word… Failure

Good and evil. Bliss and sorrow. Love and hate. Courage and fear. Success and failure. Each is incomplete without its pair. You can’t feel the true heights of ecstatic happiness if you’ve never experienced the depths of heartbreaking sadness. Yet we gnash our teeth and rage against the reality that we, as perfectly imperfect humans,  will inevitably experience the yang with the yin. Let’s face it, we are doomed to fail.

We should get comfortable with the fact that we all fail all the time. It’s all about perspective. I cycled 104 miles today, but I was super slow. If I race the Ironman (in 4 weeks) at today’s pace, I will not make the bike cutoff. So was today a failure? It depends on how you look at it. I view it as a success, since I accomplished my goal distance. Hopefully race-day adrenalin will give me the boost that I need. Success and failure are two sides of the same coin.

But what if your failure is “epic?” What if you’ve spent thirty years striving to be an expert in your chosen career and neglected your own health and wellbeing in the process? What if you’ve spent three decades married to your job, putting your friends, family, and yourself on the back burner, just to realize, when you’ve finally “made it,” that you made a huge mistake. What if you’re miserable? When I say miserable, I mean suicidal. How does perspective help you there? How can you even look on the bright side when the pit that you’re in is so deep that light doesn’t reach the bottom?

Unfortunately this is a reality for too many people. My good friend, vascular surgeon and Penn Med classmate, Leonard Su, has struggled with this demon for years. He shares his poignant story with us in “Choose Survival First.” He stared death in the face multiple times and decided to look away. He then decided that he needed to share his story with others, and thus began his own site,

Failure is a fact of life. Without it, success is not as sweet. But if you find yourself so low that you can’t see your way through, please, Choose Survival First. Then reach out and share. I promise, you are not alone.

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