getting desensitized to failures

I just watched the movie Edge of Tomorrow, and I really enjoyed it and am still thinking about it. I think it’s a great spectacle of the journey of personal growth and transformation, and giving your best again and again until you finally achieve your desired outcome. 

(Side note: Watch the movie before you read this essay as it may contain some spoilers)

Here’s a description of the movie from the Warner Bros. website:

The epic action of Edge of Tomorrow unfolds in a near future in which an alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, unbeatable by any military unit in the world.

Major William Cage (Cruise) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop—forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again…and again.

But with each battle, Cage becomes able to engage the adversaries with increasing skill, alongside Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Blunt). And, as Cage and Rita take the fight to the aliens, each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy.

A key lesson that we can learn from the movie is that embracing failure is crucial for success. Overall, the movie is a great epitome for the adage “Failure is not an option.” 

As Major Wiliam Cage (played by Tom Cruise) gets caged (pun intended) in a time loop, he realizes that the only way to escape it is to win the war against the aliens by killing the source alien being Omega. Cage continues to fail and subsequently die again and again until he gets desensitized to failing and dying. He understands that there’s no point in being afraid to fail. Once he embraces failure, he goes all in and with every new day he starts improving himself and his strategy. Over time, he gets more skilled and confident that the war against the aliens can be won. 

Cage doesn’t have any other option but to relive the day again and again. He doesn’t have a choice, he simply has to fight if he wants to live and escape the time loop. He has to repeat his moves every day until he progresses ahead and learns the best way to win this war and end it.

If we choose, we can equip ourselves with the same ‘fire in the belly’ motivation. We’re all fighting some nemesis in our lives, whether it be huge amounts of student loan debt, the challenges that we face as we raise our children, or the extra pounds of weight that we have gained over the past few years. As we try and fail again and again, we may get discouraged or lose our mojo, but regardless we have to keep going. We must ‘cage’ ourselves to follow our discipline, again and again, every single day, in spite of our failures. Every day is a blank new slate and every day is an opportunity to progress and learn something new. 

Instead of getting all worked up about how and when we are going to fail if we start, we can simply just start even if don’t feel ready, and see where that takes us. We have to view our life as a series of experiments, where failure is not an end, but just another piece of data to draw important conclusions from that we can use towards refining our approach. 

We have to find the courage within ourselves to overcome our most dreaded fears, embark on the journey that we feel compelled to go on, and use the lessons learned towards bettering ourselves and our strategies. 

And the best part is that we can minimize our personal and professional failures by seeking mentors who have already taken the journey before us and have the roadmap with them that can show us how to get to our destination faster. We can learn from their failures and use the lessons that they learned to craft our strategies and achieving the same level of success sooner.

The bottom line is that we have to embrace failing again and again, and start looking at failure as not a dead-end, but a great opportunity to learn and a chance to reflect on our strategies and approaches and refine them for greater success.