Not everything's a lesson

jasonleow  •  24 Jan 2023   •    

Part of my aspiration of getting better at being real and realistic, is coming to terms with my bias towards over-reading into situations. And a huge part of that is forming narratives around experiences where there might be none.

Dwight from The Office said it best:

Ryan: “I don’t get it. I don’t get what I did wrong.”
Dwight: “Not everything’s a lesson, Ryan. Sometimes you just fail.”


But so effing true. Sometimes we just fail.

Sometimes we fail and there’s no lesson in it. There’s no benevolent universe trying to teach us something for our own cosmic growth. There’s no life-changing insight or epiphany to be had except that we failed, plain and simple. There’s no reasons that we can know why and how we failed, except that we did.

Failures are not always stories.

Most of the time, failure is just one data point with nothing to interpret, no trend to extrapolate. And the best thing to do next is to try again, or move on. No need to attach any ego to what happened, no loss of pride to what conspired. And no additional pride either, to what you’ll do next. There’s no “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. There’s just “Oh it didn’t kill me. Next.”

Just plain old equanimity.

Even wins—small or big—are not stories most of the time. We world-build around our wins like some fantasy Narnia. But even small wins are just data. If you shouldn’t juice lessons from fails, don’t try to squeeze out epiphanies from victories too. It’s all the same, just 10x more tempting to do so because we love painting ourselves as smarter than we truly are.

Not everything’s a lesson. So…

No more world-building.
No more stories.