How Failure Can Help You Succeed

I love graduation season! It’s so awesome to celebrate the successes of family and loved ones.  This year we celebrated my niece who graduated with her master’s degree in Public Administration from American University. This girl is extraordinary! She’s charming and beautiful, as comfortable on the floor with her baby cousins as she is at an elegant table with dignitaries. She’s traveled the world and navigated influential political circles, and if you met her you might assume the path to success was laid out for her from the very beginning—that she is destined to be great.

But that’s not quite true.

I mean, she is destined to be great, but the path has not always been clear. You see, in high school she struggled to stay focused. In college, she did not—at first—balance well the responsibilities of school and social life. Like so many young people on their own for the first time, my girl finished her second year of undergrad behind the 8 ball!

Yet, despite her failures, she was, even then, moving in the direction of her destiny.  Although it was not apparent, something was happening.  She was growing up. She was figuring it out and preparing…

The path that led to her eventual success is one with which we are all familiar. Whether you’re 18 or 40, you can, no doubt, point to times when you’ve made poor choices or no choices! Perhaps you failed to start tasks or failed at tasks you started.  Failure is demoralizing, so we tend to avoid experiencing–and certainly avoid discussing—it.  We would rather pretend it doesn’t exist, or steer ourselves towards paths that are less risky—but at what cost? In his book Produced by Faith, Devon Franklin says “It is tempting to give ourselves an easy excuse not to audaciously pursue the career of our dreams [but] whoever said that faith was safe?” In other words, rather than avoiding or being ashamed of our failures, perhaps we should simply glean from them. Every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” (Winston Churchill)

As my niece worked through her personal and academic challenges, she also learned that every experience eventually works together for good. Circumstances, too, can push us to make the choice we might not have had the courage—or the will—to do otherwise. For her, it was stepping onto campus and into her junior year of college alone!  The friends who’d been with her since freshman year were gone. For the first time she was face to face with herself and God’s purpose, with no distractions.

And that’s when it clicked.

The years of meandering culminated in two years of focus and hard work that not only propelled her out of undergrad with honors, but also into a prestigious graduate program with full financial support!

What circumstances are you facing that might be pushing you towards positive action? Have you avoided failure or shied away from the lessons that your failures might teach? Don’t let present or past failures immobilize you. Let them propel you! It may just be a matter of time before it clicks!

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Break Free!

The wagons were circling. The sheriff and deputy were stepping down from their horses, cuffs in hand. This felt familiar. She had broken another rule and they were here to take her in.

“No way. Not going.”

Nevermind that they were only here to help. Nevermind that she was really in trouble and what she saw as cuffs was only kindness.

“No way.”

She cut and run. Dashing into the woods, she disappeared behind the weed, a haze blurred her from view, but no one made chase. They only watched as the smoke consumed her.

Insanity.

It’s doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.

Have you been there?

Stuck in a rut, a cycle, on a merry-go-round, unable to find the exit? How do you stop the madness? How do you decipher friends from foes as you fight for your life?

As the wagons circle you may wonder if they’re coming for you with cuffs or kindness, sometimes they look the same, yet if you continue down the same path you’re traveling, where will it lead you? To paradise?

Or prison?

Insanity.

It’s doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.

Proverbs 14:12

It’s time to Break Free!

Photo by Seth Macey on Unsplash

FIRST MONDAY: Do What You Can!

Last night I had dinner with a woman whose 9-year-old niece has a best-seller on Amazon!

As I listened in polite amazement I was thinking back over the past 20 years
of my own life and wondering where did I go wrong? 

·      How many TV shows did I watch instead of sitting
down to write?

·      How many dishes did I wash instead of sitting down
to write?

·      How many papers did I grade instead of sitting
down to write?

·      How many days did I spend doubting instead of sitting
and writing?

What did this little girl figure out in her few short years that I haven’t yet in my long life?

And here I am at the end of another year with an unfinished manuscript on my night stand. What is wrong with me if a 9-year-old can write a best-seller and I can’t even finish a manuscript?

It’s easy to get discouraged, isn’t it?

I work with students all the time who start out strong, then get lost somewhere
along the way.  The first few weeks of the semester they’re smiling and engaged. They tell me they made straight A’s in high school and plan to be doctors, lawyers or computer engineers. They sit in the front row and turn in their assignments on time, but then just before the mid-term their attendance gets a little sketchy. They become less engaged in class discussions and start turning in late work! By the time the semester skids to a close the A student is clinging to a C and bargaining for bonus points.  While their appearance on the first day was clean-cut, by the last day they’re wearing tattered sweats
and sunglasses to hide the dark circles–too many sleepless nights—maybe spent studying not partying—it just depends if the A student is still striving or if she’s given up.

I get it.  There are a thousand and one reasons why that thing you were hoping to accomplish didn’t pan out—it turned out to be harder than you thought, required a bit more time and effort than you anticipated. Now you have to regroup and decide whether you want to invest that much of yourself to get it.

How bad do you want it?

Sometimes unforeseen circumstances derail you, take you off course and the thing you’re going for gets pushed farther from your reach. Now you have to wait. But the same question applies: 

 How bad do you want it?

If the goal that we’re after is worth having, there shouldn’t be anything strong enough to keep us from attaining it.  Here we are at the end of another year, but this is not the time to wallow.  This is the time to do what you can

If you’re a college student, recognize that this is not high school. There are different expectations, different study habits, different responsibilities. You may have to re-group and try again, but do what you can.

If you’re an adult pursuing a dream, recognize that failure is not the end. There are many pathways to success and myriad ways to accomplish your goals. Fear less. Trust more, but do what you can.

It’s amazing that a 9-year-old could write a bestselling book, but you know how she did it?  By following directions for a class assignment.  She began by simply doing what she could and she did her best. I believe if I just did what I could there’d be room enough for her talent and mine on Amazon’s best seller list. 

I won’t stop pushing. What about you?

Phillipians 4:13

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash