Using Failure to Succeed

Will you ever be able to appreciate or understand the value of something freely given?  If I never failed at anything, would I ever be able to appreciate any of the things I had accomplished.  What can failure teach us?

  • Failure Teaches Us What is Really Important to Us
  • Failure Makes Us Redefine Our Dreams
  • Failure Teaches Us the Humility We Need to Admit Mistakes
  • Failure Makes Us Appreciate Success
  • Failure Is Not in Control of Who We Are
  • Failure Should Only Be Applied to the Smallest Possible Circumstances

Failure Teaches Us What is Really Important to Us

Everybody has things that they try…new hobbies, new businesses, new potty-training techniques, new diets.  At some point along this new path, you will fail.  It might be a small fail or it might be an epic fail.  The things that are important to you are the ones that you don’t walk away from after this fail.  Maybe your paintings of birds all look like blobs of strange mutants.  Do you keep painting those birds or do you give up?  Is painting something you need in your life, is it really important, or were you just test-driving it?  How you respond to a fail tells you a lot about what is really important to you.

Failure Makes Us Redefine Our Dreams

Let’s say you hated the bibs you had to use when you were putting them on your kids, so you want to make a new kind of bib available to people.  Unfortunately your bibs aren’t selling, but your friend’s wallets are.  What is important to you here?  That you are making a new kind of bib, or that you are using your sewing to provide people with a product that they love?  Does this failure redefine your dream?  Will you start making wallets or will you keep improving upon and marketing your bibs only?  Should you do both?  How can you come up with a better way to sell your bibs?  Failing will get you to ask yourself these questions and more.  Are you, at heart, a sewing girl or a bib girl?

Failure Teaches Us the Humility We Need to Admit Mistakes

Have I been too aggressive in my attempt to motivate people to support autism awareness?  Have I been focusing on the wrong perspective right now?  What am I doing wrong?  Having a conversation with my husband about what he feels I have done wrong with my autism awareness and realizing I have stockpiled enough humility to know what he is saying is something that would be good for me to hear is difficult.  My growing sense of failure will help me admit to the mistakes I have made and to learn from them.  If you have a small business that is struggling, failure can help you realize what needs to change.  Maybe the wrong person is tracking the finances.  Maybe you haven’t been doing enough paid advertising.  Maybe you really do need to start taking more of those custom orders you try to avoid.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  But maybe don’t keep trying exactly the same way every time.  That is what tweaking is for, and honestly it is worth it for the chance to use the word tweaking.

Failure Makes Us Appreciate Success

The measure of appreciation you feel for something is directly linked to the amount of blood, tears, time, sweat, and prayers you have put into it.  The significance something has in your life is directly linked to the improbability of success.  When are you most alive?  After you have just finished writing a story that flowed out of your mind like a misty mountain stream, or after you have given birth, and I mean full labor, to a story that caused you to obsess over every sentence.  One that made you open three separate documents, just so you could cut and paste entire sections out of it into a different document because you couldn’t quite get the story line right, but you just weren’t willing to let that part go just yet.  One that made you turn to whatever vice you secretly subscribe to and start talking to inanimate objects.  When you have finally succeeded, you yell at the computer screen, “Yes!  Ha!  Take that you little piece of $*%&!”  I can already tell you which scenario is more rewarding…the second one.  I can already tell you which story you will email to people and I can already tell you which story you would rather people respond positively to…the second one.  And I can tell you which one will still make you feel alive decades after you finished it…the second one.

Failure is Not in Control of Who We Are

Let’s say there was a school in your neighborhood that is shutting down.  This was the school you went to when you were a kid.  You have always wanted your kids to go there, and  you know that the children in your school district cannot afford to lose another facility.  So you start attending school board and city meetings.  You start advocating for the school, raising support and funds.  You do a car wash.  You do everything you can think of, but the school still closes.  What does that mean for you?  Did you fail?  What was the goal?  To keep the school open and to do what is best for the children in your district?  Is it possible that maybe you accomplished (and could still work towards accomplishing) the second part of that question, even if the first part didn’t work out?  Have you considered that doing what you did, becoming active in your community, and getting your community involved with your community, and getting children involved in the community, means that you have a success on your scoreboard that you didn’t know about.  Do you allow the fail to control what you do with this passion or do you control the fail?  Can you use the closing of the school to further your cause?  Can you evolve into doing what is best for the district now that this decision has already been made?  Will you continue to work towards opening the school again?  There are MANY elements in our lives that are out of our control.  Sometimes a fail just happens.  Lots of times a fail just happens.  It is not about you, and it should not be able to control you.  If being passionate about schools and learning is what is important to you, then you will eventually learn that successes and failures are both part of the process.  Don’t let them make you lose sight of what you are trying to do.

Failure Should Only Be Applied to the Smallest Possible Circumstances

I am really bad about taking a fail and making it about myself.  Instead of saying, “I failed at work today,” I should be saying, “The meeting went badly at work today,” or even better, “The meeting agenda should have been more cohesive.”  Now instead of feeling like a failure and all the negativity that comes with it, I can objectively take some steps to improve my meeting agenda planning skills.  Seriously, not many people are going to get overly worked up and negative because they need to write a better agenda.  So instead of OH MY GOD, I am dealing with Oh OK.  Much better.  (This is still in its implementation phase.  I will be honest, I deal with a lot of OH MY GOD moments on a daily basis, but  I would be much better off if I could consistently get a handle on the Oh OK moments instead.)  If you decided to stick with making and selling just bibs, but those bibs still are not selling…maybe it is not the bibs.  Maybe it is the colors, or the fasteners you decided to go with.  The way they are displayed at the shows could change people’s reaction to them.  If you experience a fail, remember that failures should only be applied to the smallest possible circumstances.

The most important things to you will never be as important to anyone else.  It is one of the reasons why you are you.  There is no one born without a reason and without a contribution they alone can make.  Allowing failure to keep you from making this contribution, however big or small, means this world will lose a beautiful color from its spectrum.

From my heart,


(c) Rachel Flinchum 7/18/2013


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