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We fear failure. And although we may feel as if failure is the end of the road, it can be the beginning of a new path. Or at least it can help us continue our journey in a smarter way. We mistakenly believe today's failure determines tomorrow's destiny. This is categorically false.
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Some of history's greatest men and women have overcome failure to create great things. Take, for instance:
- Socrates - Labeled "an immoral corrupter of youth."
- Sir Isaac Newton - Failed miserably at running the family farm.
- Winston Churchill - Struggled in school and failed 6th grade.
- Abraham Lincoln - Went to war as a captain and returned a private, failed at numerous business ventures and was defeated numerous times while running for public office.
- Walt Disney - Fired by a newspaper editor because, "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas." He also failed at a number of business ventures and went bankrupt.
- Thomas Edison - Told by his grade school teacher that he was "too stupid to learn anything."
- Albert Einstein - Because he didn't speak until age 4 and didn't read until age 7, his teachers and parents considered him mentally handicapped. He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to Zurich Polytechnic.
- Vincent Van Gogh - During his lifetime, he sold only one painting... and that was to a friend (and only for a small amount of money).
- Michael Jordan - Cut from his high school basketball team.
What's the worst that can happen if you fail? So you have to start over... so you have to admit you aren't perfect... so you are disappointed... so what?!?! A failure is not a life sentence. It's just a normal part of the growth process.
Failure doesn't have the ability to control our destiny unless we allow it to do so. It is not all-powerful. Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy first discovers the true identity of the Wizard? They find out he's really nothing but smoke and mirrors (and a deep, booming, scary voice) behind a large curtain. The reality is an entirely different thing.
We have to remember that as long as Jesus is alive there is hope! Most failures are neither final nor fatal. And if we choose to learn from them, they aren't futile either. Winston Churchill famously said, "Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."
How do we learn from failures? By analyzing them. We have to train ourselves to become more self-aware. We have to ask ourselves some hard questions:
- What really happened? (Try to separate the emotion/drama from the event and analyze what actually occurred.)
- Why did it happen? (Look for causes, both the obvious ones and the ones that may be harder to discover... prayer will help with this one.)
- What was my part in the failure? (Many of the failures we experience aren't entirely our fault, although, for the most part they are self-inflicted.)
- What did I do to make the problem worse? (How did my actions/reactions escalate the emotion/intensity of the situation.)
- What could/should I have done differently? (This one may take some time to process. You may need to ask someone else that knows you well to help with this.)
- What principles can I learn from this? (If we fail to learn from the past we're doomed to repeat it. When all is said and done, this is the step that is the difference maker.)
Now that you've analyzed everything, take a moment to pray and ask God to help you apply what you've learned through this introspection process. You may find, like I often do, that the answers are revealed over time. I was telling my son how I discovered a new principle about an event that happened three years ago. He said I should let it all go. I explained that I'm always wanting to learn from the past, so I'm thankful when God shows me something. I'm not living in the past, just making sure I learn from it!
For further study on this subject Failing Forward by John Maxwell is an exceptional book!
What questions would you add to this list? Join the discussion below.