Our times are forcing people to examine failure. Right now, many people feel they have failed against the larger world. The future looks bleak to many people.

I am getting asked now, how to work against this?
How would a Taoist react to failure?

My reaction against failure is this:

Within a philosophy of acceptance,
In the larger sense there is no failure.

However, in living, in the moment, in being separated from each other, this question becomes very real. Differences in our stories and the desire to focus in on details opens the possibility of problems.

When focusing on oneself, on goals, on expectations, a person does set themselves up for both success and failure. Taking a Yin-Yang approach means action can be broken into terms of success and failure.

When making an error, or experiencing a problem: accept the situation and then move to balance it with success.

Go Beyond Failure

Often we have to change the way we hold our values to move around our problems. Often we need to avoid letting despair or depression define us in a manner that undercuts us to think we have failed in life.

It is easy to think you have failed when the social system itself is playing a game designed to make you fail. So go beyond the games, and you can go beyond failure.

Releasing Despair & Fear

I am seeing many people living in despair, acting in despair and as a result losing their power to despair.

First: despair is an unstable diminishing place of spirit. To act in despair will limit and undercut all your future actions to failure.

This means learning to release despair since despair is dis-empowering.

In part: one way to counteract despair and broken dreams is by living with awareness in the now rather than fearing a future that isn’t here yet. Often a person needs to step ahead with many smaller steps and avoid doing nothing in despair. Many people fail simply because they give up before starting.

Explore Your Essence

Learn to trust your intuition.

Let go of judgments.

Remove conflict and anger

Be kind to yourself

Fight the Good Fight

Secondly: Many people experience failure because they fight fights; they don’t need to fight.

Instead: be strong in who you are, be kind in who you are and pick and only choose the fights that matter.

Everyone can do this; it’s part of the Taoist teachings. It requires modesty, so you minimize fights over power, it requires non-judgment, to release other people’s judgment, and in that release conflict.

Don’t Lose Touch to Yourself.

It requires kindness so that you don’t give up your essence but stand strong in it. Kindness means to give to both yourself and others *Equally*.

Success is often completing one’s essence, and failure represents actions that take us further away from our essence. So often we lose track of ourselves, and the roots of failure come from mismeasuring ourselves.

So in confronting the fear of failure: Are you ready to simplify down to truly living your life, rather than acting out to the rules and projections of others? You will fail when trying to live to outside measures but succeed when living against your own essence.

All Questions Answered
All Questions Answered

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Hi, the comments above are very helpful. I seem to have a really competitive streak and I think it may stem from thinking I’m not good enough as opposed to needing to win over people all the time. Hopefully that makes sense? It’s like I have an anxiety about setting up a business and having to be better than everyone else because I am worried there isn’t enough business to go around. How would this be approached? To relax and enjoy what is while trusting that the clients will come and that being the best isn’t necessarily important. The key… Read more »


Many thanks Casey! I’ve been stuck on this for many weeks, and when I read your advise, it made sense. Really changed my game, but more importantly my outlook, definitely made my game more enjoyable by not seeing it as a competition with others or myself like I used to. Again, many thanks!


I play golf competitively for my school but do not want to see it as a competition against others but of one against yourself. I do not know if this is the best approach, and I am having trouble changing my mental outlook.


Hi Jeff, I am in my later years too. I look back at my past and realise that failure has lead to my successes. You are lucky! I don’t have a family. When I look out from my one bedroom apartment my heart goes out to the 100s of construction workers from third world countries that slave under the hot desert sun 24/7 dreaming about their families. I often think about trading places with them, giving them a sense of freedom and control, hence we should be grateful for what we have regardless of our personal circumstances. Self acceptance is… Read more »


I am in my later years and I find my past failures the most memorable. I had several years of success when I had confidence in my abilities and the physical health. Now I struggle to keep up with my younger piers and the demands of family. How can a semi-senior citizen turn himself around?

@Al: If it seems impossible to find inner peace.. then your perspective itself is preventing you from finding inner peace.

It’s always possible to find a path to inner peace, but you have to often shift and change how you see something in order to find that path to your inner peace.

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