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Failure is the catalyst that allows many people to make positive changes in their lives, and that allows people to move on to something bigger and better.  Failure pushes many people just a little bit closer to inevitable success, for in failure, they learn what won't work, or what more needs to be done.  Thomas Edison is widely quoted as having said that he didn't fail at all when he tried thousands of ways to make a light bulb, none of them working--he just learned thousands of ways that didn't work, and with each "failure," he could eliminate another possible method for accomplishing his goal.

Unfortunately, though, many people allow failure to stigmatize them, to prevent them from trying any more, to cause them to give up hope of ever doing anything "right."  They find it impossible to move on, to try any other risk, to try anything new.  Their fear of failure keeps them from adding anything new to their lives, and possibly worst of all, keeps them from feeling the thrill and satisfaction of accomplishment when they've done something new very well.  Their fears prevent them from meeting new people, from going new places, from trying new things, and from creating new spaces in their lives.  They fall into a rut that's defined by fear.

I don't feel there's necessarily anything wrong with many ruts.  I'm in a few myself, and they're very pleasant.  But they're also ruts in which I continue to learn and explore and expand and change.  

(Many would argue that if that's the case, they're not ruts at all, but I don't see the term "rut" as being necessarily negative.)  They aren't ruts that are created by my fear of taking chances or doing new things.  If that ever becomes the case, I'll have to make some drastic changes and get out of them.  The important thing for me always to be aware of is whether or not a current rut is caused by a past failure--do I avoid trying this new project because I tried it once before and failed?  Do I not try to meet this person because I failed in a relationship with just such a person at some time in my past?  If my failures are defining my life, then I'm in trouble.

I've failed a lot, at many different endeavors.  I've come in last place in many things.  I've been passed over for promotions, I've lost boards in the army, I've not been hired for the jobs I've applied for.  But each time I've been fortunate enough not to allow that failure to keep me from trying.  When I lost a board, I came back the next month and won the next one.  When I haven't been hired, I've gone elsewhere and applied.  When I was turned down by a slew of PhD. programs, I moved to a place I wanted to live and started to work.  I've been very blessed, because there's something in my genetic code that gives me the ability to shake off failure--I don't even regard it as failure any more--and move on.  But not all people are so fortunate.

How many people do you know who fail in a relationship and then won't have anything to do with anyone afterwards?  Or who fail in a tournament and who won't do that sport or activity any more?  I suppose one of the most dangerous aspects of that type of behavior is the possibility that such a person is not acting out of fear of failing again, but out of fear of how people will regard them for having failed.

I've got bad news:  You're going to fail at many things in your life.  But I have good news, too:  You're going to fail at many things in life.  Failure is how you learn, how you grow, how you transform yourself into a new person, into a wonderful reflection of the beautiful creation you are.  If you don't allow yourself to grow and to learn from your failures, you're doing a great disservice to yourself and to those people who surround you who deserve to have you be the wonderful person you have the capability to become.  Look at the failures and shortcomings in your life as refinement, as you move on and become a beautiful example of what a human being can be.

And remember--failure is not the absence of success; failure is a step towards success.



The credit belongs to the people who are actually in the arena; whose faces
are marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strive valiantly,; who err
and come short again and again; who know the great enthusiasms,
the great devotions, and and spend themselves in worthy causes;
who, at the best, know in the end the triumph of high achievement;
and who, at the worst, if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly,
so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who know neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt


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Virtually nothing comes out right the first time.
Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement.
The only time you don't want to fail is the last time you try something. . . .
one fails forward toward success.

Charles F. Kettering


If you're not failing, you're not trying anything.

Woody Allen


We need to teach highly educated people that it
is not a disgrace to fail and that they must analyze
every failure to find its cause.  They must learn how
to fail intelligently, for failing is one of the
greatest arts of the world.

Charles F. Kettering


I will tell you that there have been no failures in my life.
I don't want to sound like some metaphysical queen,
but there have been no failures.
There have been some tremendous lessons.

Oprah Winfrey

There is no failure except in no longer trying.

Elbert Hubbard

The entrepreneurs know that it doesn't always work.
It's not uncommon to go through a couple of failures before you hit it.

Thomas Perkins


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You may be disappointed if you fail,
but you are doomed if you don't try.

Beverly Sills

I'd rather be a failure at something I enjoy than be a success at something I hate.

George Burns

A failure is not always a mistake; it may simply be the best one can do
under the circumstances.  The real mistake is to stop trying.

B.F. Skinner

If you have made mistakes, even serious ones,
there is always another chance for you.  You may have
a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing
we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.

Mary Pickford


I wasn't afraid to fail.  Something good always comes out of failure.

Ann Baxter

failure 2   

Failure is instructive.  People who really think
learn quite as much from their failures as from their successes.

John Dewey


Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.

Henry Ford

Learn how to fail intelligently.

Charles F. Kettering

It is a common mistake to think of failure as the enemy of success.
Failure is a teacher--a harsh one, but the best.  Pull your failures
to pieces looking for the reason.  Put your failure to work for you.

Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously,
it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them.  It is of
immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves.

Katherine Mansfield


What can any of us do with our talent but try to develop our vision, so that
through frequent failures we may learn better what we missed in the past.

William Carlos Williams

If success were easy, then it would not necessarily be true success.  Some of
history's most successful people learned to cope with failure as a natural
offshoot of the experimental and creative process and often learned more
from their failures than their successes.  By taking the attitude that failure is
merely a detour on the way to our destination, hope can blossom into success.

John Marks Templeton
Worldwide Laws of Life


I never make New Years Resolutions as such, but I do resolve to fail
at least once this year!  Yes, fail.  I plan on failing at least once maybe
more.  If I do not fail at least once I have not risked anything.  To
never risk means to never fail and to never fail means to never succeed!
Thomas Edison patented 1,368 inventions that improved life that we
enjoy today.  He made a statement, "If I find 10,000 ways something
won't work, I haven't failed.  I am not discouraged, because every
wrong attempt discarded is just one more step forward. . . There are
no rules here, we're just trying to accomplish something."

Lena Sanchez

Each season I tell the Roughriders that failure is achieving all your goals--it
means you didn't aim high enough.  When you're setting goals, I explain,
there's a tremendous risk that you'll aim too low.  To achieve your potential,
you need to be out of your comfort zone, forcing yourself to achieve things
you didn't know you could do.  That's how you improve.

Bill Resler
The Heart of the Team


Failure is success if we learn from it.

Malcolm Forbes


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In my life coaching work, I've noticed that the biggest difference between
wildly successful people and total failures is that the successful people fail
more.  They throw their hearts into one hopeful venture after another, and
most of those efforts fall flat.  Comedy writer John Vorhaus claims that the
failure rate in his profession is about 90 percent.  He calls this the "Rule of
Nine," meaning that for every good joke a comic writes, there will be nine
more that are about as funny as leprosy.  Successful comedians aren't
necessarily people who hit the funny bone 100 percent--or even 50
percent--of the time.  They're just people who write a thousand jokes,
then drop the nine hundred that don't work.

Martha Beck
The Joy Diet

We have so confused the norms of success in this society that we no
longer know failure when we see it.  People who could have earned
more money had they chosen to spend more time at the office and less
time with the family; people who could have been more socially prominent
had they just been willing to forego old friends from old neighborhoods;
people who could have lived in more sophisticated cities had they been
willing to give up fishing and walking in the woods:  these people we
consider some kind of social failures.  But maybe what they really
succeeded at becoming was real people, instead of hollow copies
of advertising models for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Joan Chittister
Seeing with Our Souls



Daily Meditations, Year One
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