FM Quip: Failure, the Fertilizer

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FM Quips can be read in 5 or fewer minutes. See other FM Quips by clicking here. Connect with Fraternity Man (Nik) on Twitter to share your thoughts.

From death sprouts life, and vice versa. The idea that failure is an important element of learning is not new. It may even be “played out” among self-help gurus. Let’s get beyond the catchphrase takes on failure. Why is it important? What does failure actually contribute toward progress?

The answer is simply: Failure serves as fertilizer. Death is an inevitable failure we all face, but death and decay are the greatest fertilizers for life on Earth. Consider a farmer ploughing the land to bring nutrients to the soil surface. At the same time, he overturns the soil, burying weeds and dead crops to decay and serve as fertilizer.

On a smaller scale, I found two planters when I moved into my apartment in Lexington, KY. They may have once been home to beautiful flowers, but I did not have the time or interest to garden. Despite my abandonment, the planters were full of beautiful life. Something fascinating came from my failure as a gardener. All of that life in that planter (including the bugs and spiders) came about because of the death of whatever was once planted there:

Pretty sure one of my colleagues would kill to have turned this into a “fairy garden.”

Nik, I’m Not A Farmer.

Writers experience a similar process. For example, there are dozens of posts I have written which may never see the light of day. They are failures for one reason or another. Putting those ideas into writing; however, often serves as inspiration for future posts. Sometimes many ideas combine into one. Complicated (or nonsensical) ideas can be broken down into several posts.

The most popular post of this year (so far) is this one about Kappa Sigma fraternity being the “new normal.” It is actually a combination of ideas from older or unpublished posts. Within that post are comments on the value of niche development [1], the flaws of fraternity PR campaigns [2], the negative effects of our sanitized and centralized approach to our problems [4], and student ownership of fraternities [5].

Many of the posts I linked too never took off on their own. They were failures, but they serve as fertilizer.