How to Embrace Failure

Fail Strong!

Luckily, I learned early in my leadership journey that success’ best friend is failure. It was a good thing considering how much failure I’ve experienced!

It turns out to be one of the most prized lessons I have learned.

My daughter thinks that I am the best word searcher ever. She comes home with word search pages from school and if she gets stuck, she asks me. She’s amazed at my abilities!  You know what? Those darned word searched always come with at least one word that is practically impossible to find! I know you can relate to this: scanning the letters – looking for that first letter of the word – trying to find the pattern – and after a while – still no word found. Frustration mounts. I start saying: Where is this word? Wondering if they actually forgot to put this one word in the puzzle. How can this word elude me?

Then what? I want to toss in the highlighter and give up! I failed in my attempt to find the word for so long, I become tired of trying.  Of course, that’s not an option for homework – and I can’t let my daughter down. The odd are just too high. She’s counting on me! So, I press on desperately looking for this word – the one word that will make it all happen and make all the pain go away!

Yes, it gets that frantic. The struggle is real, people!

Then–IT happens: you find it! In the place you least expect – upside down or backwards or something.  You think: holy cow, it was there the whole time!

Word searches can teach us a lot about failure. Failure is only failure when you don’t learn from it. Failure wins when it leaves you less of a person than when it found you.

Here are four nuggets to think about so that you can fail stronger.

1.Mistakes help us grow. Failure only occurs when we don’t learn or grow from our mistakes. Some chapters of our life are a bit tough, they are painful and messy. You can’t wallow in the defeat. Rather, see each day as a new day. Ponder and be thankful for the blessings you have scattered among the difficulties. Chances are you have more blessings to count than difficulties. Use those messy moments as stepping stones to greatness. God will never give you an opportunity you can’t use for your benefit. Some very wise words to remember here: “Hardly ever does [God] work his wonders without a mistake being made first.” – Pope Benedict XVI

2.Failure is a label. We label and limit ourselves. God does not put that label on us. After you take those moments to reflect and be thankful, then do this: move on, in confidence. The fact is: yesterday ended last night. So be refreshed and grow. Too many people are willfully stuck in the pain of yesterday. Get OUT already! Life is too short for wallowing in yesterday’s muck and stink. Go find some new, pleasant smells. You’re not the sum of your failures, you’re the sum of God’s love and hopes for you. So, get up and get stronger. You are irreplaceable and you are needed!

3.Get your ego out of the way. Ego only compounds the feeling of failure. People with a big EGO think, I’m too good to admit failure, or, What will people think…. This only adds to more worry. Adding humility, recognizing failure as a path to growth, will help you engage failure with more acceptance and understanding. On top of it all: The BIG EGO may drive you away from some big opportunities of greatness just because you don’t want to handle the pain that comes with it. Humility lets us walk the right path to growth, for the good of ourselves and others and take the pain with a redeemed, learning, growing and changing heart.

4.The good fruit of a tree is found at the end of the limbs, so reach out, strain, stretch and get it. Success will come to you only if you are willing to fail – but fail stronger. What’s the worst that can happen if you stretch for that fruit at the end of the limb? You might fall – yes – but then just get back up, learn, rejuvenate and do it again.

All I know is we are built to win, not to whine. Lead with faith in the journey, not fear.

Before we finish here. This blog is not written by a guy who doesn’t understand true failure and true difficulty. Word searches aren’t my biggest struggle, believe me! I’ve had plenty of failures, and all have been challenges to get up and move forward. Give yourself 24 hours to mourn the failure. Then, pick up and move on in the most redemptive way possible.

Redemption comes only through the pain. The pain is the failure, the failure is the invitation and the invitation is the path to success.

Go and Grow!

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