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!

signaturemed

Cover image by Canva

Mayhem Monday: Strap on your Power Pumps and Kick Failure!

When I was in grad school I often felt like I was climbing up hill. Alone.

By that time I was married with two small children and commuting about 600 miles (round trip) every week. Yeah, it was crazy. A few days each week I would sit in an empty apartment surrounded by books and papers, searching out the mysteries of some scholarly work, attempting to interpret some scholarly idea or—harder still—endeavoring to produce something scholarly myself!

Most of the time I was just climbing up hill.

There were smart people all around me. The students in my program were self-assured and articulate. They spoke eloquently about books I hadn’t read yet and professionals in our field whose names  I was still learning.  I liked being around them, though.  My hope was that their intelligence would rub off! So I smiled and nodded as the conversations swirled.

Still climbing…

In the car rides to school–during the long stretches of country road where there were few other cars besides mine–I would sneak peaks at the article I had yet to finish reading for class.  On the return trips home, I would mentally calculate how many hours I would have between the kids, the hubby and the home duties to complete writing and reading tasks before the next return trip.

Often the hill was steep.

Then that glorious time came when classes were completed–only exams and dissertation remained! Ah, but don’t  be fooled by the “only” in that sentence. It was yet another mountain.  Just when I could see the summit coming into view, the unthinkable happened.  I failed one of my qualifying exams.   My momentum halted. I began sliding straight down that hill. I thought I was done.

But, there were people around me who wouldn’t let me quit.  Two in particular—my husband and my advisor.  They made me look at that failure as a place to begin rather than end.  I had been so focused on pushing up that hill and getting to the top that I had actually missed some things along the way. I needed to go back and take a closer look. I had to slow down and think about each step. The journey was not just about the destination, there were some points along the way that I could only appreciate if I moved slowly and pondered them a little longer. My failure pushed me to  the apex of another mountain and once I pushed past the fog of disappointment, I was able to see my journey with fresh eyes.

And so, in spite of the setback, I kept climbing.

What I love about this verse in Habakkuk is that it says He’ll give me strength to climb “my hills” which implies that He is interested in my personal situation.  It means He knows what I need for the particular journey that I am on.  So, even when I feel like I’m unfit for the task at hand, even when I feel like I’m all alone, or it seems that I’m the only one in the room who doesn’t have a clue, this verse says He’s giving me strength to walk on “my high hills”–He’s telling me to take ownership of that mountain! To claim it as my territory and walk on it with all the power and might that He’s given me!

You know what that’s like? It’s like putting on the power suit and pumps and stepping out with full confidence that regardless of whatever failures you suffered yesterday, today is a new day and today you’re walking on your hills,  You can do it  with confidence because He’s got your back!  He’s not going to let you quit. He knows this climb is rough, but there are some lessons along the way He wants you to learn so He’s made your feet like “deer’s feet”—deer step light and leap gracefully over boundaries. God says do likewise.  Strap on your high heels and take to the high hills–He’s got your back!

Happy Monday!

SignatureMed