What do you consider to be your greatest personal failure? Why?
At first blush, It seems like an innocuous question. It seems to be designed with a well meaning intent to evaluate the person based on his reflections of his choices and actions. Such questions really amuse me though. When I was asked to answer this question within 50 words, I wrote this,
Failures are labels of unwilled perceptions arising from the fear of seeing the choices we have made and its unimaginable consequences. What is "failure" anyway?
How could we callously label the immensity of our life's experiences in neatly defined categories of success and failure? Although it may be too alluring for us and our institutions to measure our life's experiences conveniently through such surrogates, do we really have to take them seriously?
Its quite ironic for me to write this, as my every day job as a consultant depends on the ability to simplify the complex, messy reality of business environments for my clients within the boundaries of my ideas and interpretations.
Many moons ago, I used to fight valiantly against such labels and viscerally felt the impulse to debunk every label which attempted to slot me. Today, it's different. I consciously play with the labels others throw around me because when I actively engage with them in their world of labels they have constructed painstakingly to manage their realities, I become open and available to see the plurality of the worlds we inhabit and sometimes, when I am lucky, a flash of insight opens up which reveals the myopia of the label I have constructed myself. That doesn't stop me from labeling. Far from it. What it does is immensely precious. Labeling becomes a "beta" activity, whose definitions evolve with my life's experiences.