You learn more at a funeral than you learn at a wedding. The Ancient Solomon tells us, “in times of disaster we must consider, but in times of prosperity we should rejoice.” Weddings are beginnings; they are a starting point. But funerals represent the end—when it’s over, you have either succeeded or you didn’t succeed.
Nobody wants to fail, but everybody will. The problem with many people today is that they are not willing to fail. Everyone is willing to win, but it’s rare that someone is willing to fail. King Solomon said, “a living dog is better off than a dead lion because the living have hope.” If you’re breathing, you’re a candidate for change—there’s hope for you. You have to ask yourself; is failure an option? It should be. It needs to be on your list of things to do because it’s going to end up on your bucket list. When we play it safe, we lose all vitality.
Failure as an Invitation
Failure invites us to improvise, maximize, and capitalize. It’s an invitation to become better. But when we become too risk adverse, we only create rationalization. Doing nothing always invites us to rationalize—to tell ourselves rational lies as to why we couldn’t do it, make it or shake it. Of course most of us were taught from a very young age that ‘mistakes’ are bad and that mistakes must be avoided at all costs. It’s as if mistakes are the ends as opposed to the essential parts of a much larger process of moving forward.
Ask any young child to draw you a picture of a dog—no matter what it looks like, they’re proud of it—that is until an older sibling or peer makes fun of it. Feeling bad about something we’ve done or didn’t do usually comes from an outside source. But if we understand failure is an inevitable part of being, we can embrace it as part of life. Not embracing failure can lead us to believe it to be a poor reflection of our deeper self. it is for this reason we will strive to avoid the inevitable opportunities to fail, thus stifling our mental and spiritual growth as people.
Many of us see the failures of others as a reflection of our own inability. We judge others harshly as if frightening the failure out of others will strengthen our own identity. People make mistakes. We all make mistakes. We miss the mark repeatedly. We patiently wait for opportunities to tell others where they screwed up—we rarely appreciate them when they live up. We should make it our goal to gently instruct others who miss the mark as opposed to pointing out their failures.
A good friend once told me, “It’s not wrong to be wrong; it’s wrong to stay wrong.” It is the same with failure. You’re not a failure to be a failure; you’re a failure if you stay a failure. You fail only when you refuse to allow failure to help define your future. When failure defines who we are rather than what went wrong, we lose all chances of capitalizing on it.
Don’t See Setbacks As Failures
Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded at what he believed in. Beethoven handled the violin clumsily and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher eventually called him hopeless as a composer. Colonel Sanders mismanaged the construction of a new road and it put him out of business in 1967. After nearly committing suicide, he approached over one thousand people trying to sell his chicken recipe and was rejected every single time. It was only after a thousand rejections that he found a buyer on his one thousand and first attempt. Seven years later, at the age of 75, Sanders sold his fried chicken company for a finger-licking fifteen million dollars.
Many don’t know that a newspaper editor, for a lack of creative ideas abruptly fired Walt Disney. Not only was he fired; he also went bankrupt several times before building his first Disneyland. Disney could have easily given up and considered himself a failure, but he didn’t. Are you failing? Good. Failure means you are still alive and growing.