“You have failed me for the last time,” Count Dooku intoned to his apprentice, Asajj Ventriss, in a season 3 episode of The Clone Wars animated series. It’s okay if you don’t know who they are or even how to pronounce their names. I brought them up because watching that episode and hearing those words reminded me of what I’ve felt lately.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I feel like a total failure. “Oh boo hoo,” I hear you scoffing. “Cry me a river. You’re probably just talking about a hangnail.” I realize you don’t know me. After all, I’m writing under a pen name. So I totally get the skepticism. Suffice it to say that failed relationships, financial mishaps, failing grades in school, layoffs, years of failing health, books published but out of print in less than two years, failed expectations—these are the warp and weft of my existence. Even my failure to correctly identify the monarch butterfly in first grade (and thus win a prize) still haunts me. Cry you a river? I could.
The monarch butterfly. Yes, I know it now. A fat lot of good that does me.
As they say, misery loves company. I like to hear stories of people who have been in the mire. So when my friend Sharon sent me this link to Markus Zusak’s TED Talk on failure, I listened to it several times. (I had hoped to be able to embed the video here, but couldn’t.) Who’s he? An author from Australia who wrote the critically acclaimed young adult novels The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger. I Am the Messenger was named a Printz Honor book in 2006 with The Book Thief winning that coveted spot in 2007. The Book Thief, which has been translated into at least 40 languages, recently was adapted for the big screen.
At first I scoffed at the idea of Markus Zusak talking about failure. After all, he not only is as a cute as a button, four of his books had been published by the time he was 28 years old. And The Book Thief has been on the bestseller list not one year but years. But Zusak allows us to walk a mile in his shoes when he discusses the “gift” of failure. I hope you’ll take the time to listen to his talk. (You can get to it by clicking on the link in the paragraph with his photo.) Maybe like me, you needed to hear this today, to know you’re not alone, to know there is hope even after failure. Failure may be a gift no one wants, but it has a unique way of teaching us what success cannot: how to get back up after being knocked down.
Book covers from Goodreads. Asajj Ventriss image from ign.com. Count Dooku from simplywallpaper.net. Markus Zusak photo from the Internet.