Lola sat on one of the intake ramps of the SKYVAC 1.1. She sipped her wine as she stared at the culprit, the murderous intake facilitator. She was a failure. All she could feel was the intake sucking her dreams out of her. She felt all her fear and anxiety rush in to fill the void. Ten years of her life a waste—a failure. The test cities, New Delhi and Beijing, wanted nothing to do with her now.
She had invented the SKYVAC 1.1. It was a sophisticated vacuum cleaner for the sky. It was intended to float above the world’s cities with the dirtiest air, quietly sucking in polluted air and expelling clean and filtered air out the other end. Thinking she had considered everything, she had forgotten the birds. Curious birds were sucked in too. Not good. Now she had P.E.T.A. on her back. The self-flagellation continued to chatter in her head as she stared at the intake. How could she have been so stupid?
Lola thought aloud, “Who decided it was a failure?”
“Everyone,” she answered.
Something nagged at her though. It was that “don’t toss the baby out with the bathwater” thing. The rest of SKYVAC 1.1 worked perfectly. She looked heavenward.
“Some help for the bird murderer, please?”
It was all Lola could think of, as a tear rolled down her cheek. Everything sucked everything.
She took another sip of wine and watched a small bird land on the rim of the intake. A moment later, a larger bird landed on the other side of the rim, scaring the little bird off. Lola froze. Her mind raced. She was able to picture exactly how to make the SKYVAC 1.1 into a giant bird! It would have giant flapping wings that would scare the birds. They’d never want to come near it in the first place! She had to do this! She prayed they would give her another chance once they saw it.
A few months later, the ArgentaVac 1.2 was born. Named after the largest known pre-historic bird ever to exist, the Argentavis. It had a wing span of 25 feet and weighed about 200 pounds. She invited the reluctant and doubtful clients to the hanger and was grateful for another chance.
Their jaws dropped in unison as she rolled the concealing screen to the side, revealing the enormous bird. They were speechless; she couldn’t tell if they loved it or hated it.
“Say something,” Lola said under her breath.
Beijing smiled and nodded in the affirmative, saying, “This is brilliant, it will work!”
Pretty soon New Delhi was smiling too. “This will be something tourists will come to see—and it will not only clean the air, but it will help our economy too!”
Lola let out the breath she’d been holding. She breathed deeply and smiled along with them.
Word spread quickly, as orders from dirty cities all over the world poured in. Everyone wanted the spectacle of the giant bird flying over their city, cleaning the air and delighting children. It wasn’t long before it was ironically nicknamed the Bird Fart. F-resh, A-ir, R-elease, T-ransformer.
One evening, as she lay in bed, she thought about her supposed “failure.” She was sorry for the birds that were lost. She saw the whole story in a way that boggled her mind. Birds had ended her life as she’d dreamed it would be. Then, birds also led her to an inspired new and better life, for everyone. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes. It was not a failure after all, but merely a direction correction. She never would have come up with the ArgentaVac 1.2 had the SKYVAC 1.1 not been such a ghastly experience. What if she had quit then and there?
As she lay there thinking, it occurred to her that the most significant lesson in all of this had been when she had surrendered and asked for help. Then she watched the answer come to her, as if on the wings of birds.
“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.”