Failure. Seven letters that affect everyone in some way or another. But why is failing, or losing our way, considered such a bad thing? Why don’t we see it as the next step in our journey – as a learning experience, or as an opportunity to try again with more knowledge behind us?
I think of failure like you’re looking over the edge of a cliff and have two choices: you either jump or you turn round and face things. This scenario happens in different forms throughout life, and it’s the choices you make that will decide whether you embrace opportunities whole-heartedly or not. Even if doing the right thing feels like the harder thing to do… do it. In the long run, tackling things head-on instead of running away from them is going to make you who you were truly born to be.
I left school when I was 18, just after A-levels, and went on a gap year. It was amazing. The time between school and university or work is the perfect time to go travelling, as it’s often the last time you have true freedom, with no responsibility, to explore just for the sake of experiencing diverse people and places. Someone once told me that true humility is the ability to learn from every single person you meet. I found that if you can travel with this perspective, you can learn a hell of a lot!
Sam Branson, adventure, Arctic2014
Despite having the best time, when I got back from my travels I was quite disillusioned by the world. I became very sensitive to the world’s sufferings, and affected by the negative stories I heard in the news and media. Despite having a naturally sociable and friendly disposition, I began to stick my head in the sand and shut off from really participating in the world. I just wanted to be happy, so I ignored anything that didn’t aid that feeling. If I’m honest, I was probably starting down a path that wasn’t going to lead me in a very good direction, until something pulled me back: I met my now wife, Bellie.
Bellie showed me that to feel emotions – all of them – is part of being human, and how important it is to be able to do that. Around the same time I was offered an opportunity to go to the Arctic, where by spending three months experiencing nature in its rawest form I was able to break down my psyche and build it back up. It was the perfect time to declutter from all the noise of life and challenge myself to keep a positive perspective when things around me were tough.
It was a real eye opening experience, and gave me something to be truly proud of. I didn’t know at the time, but it was a coming of age for me – a time when I found out who I truly was. It was also the start of my journey into adventure and philanthropy.
Sam Branson, adventure, Arctic2014 2
During my Arctic adventure, I learnt a lot about myself, not least, the life skills I needed to thrive. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was failing before, but I was losing my ability to navigate the complexity of life in a way that added real value. This new, more optimistic way of thinking, has been reinforced by other trips and challenges since, cementing my love of going out of my comfort zone, facing the possibility of failure head on, and really learning about myself. These experiences have gone on to inform a lot of my life, in particular my work with Big Change.
I believe we manifest the internal narrative that we tell ourselves. Changing an accepted narrative to a productive one is so important – which is why I set up my production company Sundog Pictures. Life can be difficult, no matter what walk of life you come from, but hard situations present our biggest opportunities for growth.
Like every human experience, having the right outlook is always a choice. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but it’s a choice – one that will only strengthen your ability to succeed in life. There is a bad wolf and a good wolf in all of us… Which one survives? The one that you feed!
Richard, Sam Branson, Virgin Strive Challenge, adventure
I see life as one long lesson, so if you’re learning from your mistakes then you can never really fail… you’re just on a constant journey to success!