Thursday, May 29, 2014


Here’s a question for you:
How many failures = success?

Try these on for size:
  • Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  Thomas A. Edison
  • Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again. That's the way life is, with a new game every day, and that's the way baseball is.  Bob Feller
  • Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.  C. S. Lewis
  • Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.  Dale Carnegie
  • Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression. Do not repeat them in the future.  Swami Sivananda
  • You don't learn from successes; you don't learn from awards; you don't learn from celebrity; you only learn from wounds and scars and mistakes and failures. And that's the truth.  Jane Fonda
  • Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.  George Edward Woodberry
And my favorite:
  • If you call failures experiments, you can put them in your resume and claim them as achievements.  Mason Cooley
From these thoughts, garnered from folks in all kinds of endeavors, it’s pretty clear that one way to spell success is failure.

Think of them as both sides of the same coin, a common metaphor used to describe opposites that actually work in tandem. As with a coin, you can’t have one without the other. (Have you ever seen a one-sided coin? Not in this 3-dimensional world.)

In my experience, failures mean that we’ve tried; we’ve been thinking, working, tinkering—with ideas, numbers and equations, pieces of wood or scraps of fabric or foods; we’ve devoted time, energy, and the whole of ourselves to something not necessarily related to keeping ourselves alive.
In other words, we’ve set ourselves up to be willing to fail—in the expectation that we will succeed.

When I taught freshman composition classes for Purdue University, I loved the word essay. It comes from the French verb, essayer, which means to try, to aim, to attempt, to give it a whirl, to have a go.
One of my goals in teaching comp was to instill in the students that what they wrote first were trials, approaches to a final draft.

And, as is the way with life, my attempt to get them to see that possibility did not always succeed. In some cases it was a clear, unmitigated, and downright mind-boggling failure. But I kept on, for reasons beyond the understanding of mankind, showing the reasons for drafts, pre-writing (note-making, brainstorming), and rewriting.
Talk about uphill work! Sisyphus had nothing on me!

What I learned was perseverance, trying to find new ways to teach the same lessons, looking for a student's experiences that might be built on. As I taught, I kept on learning. Most teachers will say the same.

Probably the most difficult person to reach is the one who says, “Failure is not in my vocabulary!”
Oh, really? You were born walking, talking, tying your shoes, eating with a fork, reading, doing math . . . ?

The sub-text here is this: “I don’t dwell on failure; I don’t let it rule my life; I don’t call myself a failure.” I hope that’s what the person means who disclaims failure as a part of life.

This post started out asking us to consider success. Here are three questions we can consider:

1.       Whose definition of success am I using?

2.       Is that definition a valid yardstick—does it fit me?

3.       What is my ultimate goal?
While knowing the goal is important, I’ve found that it’s equally important to allow for discoveries along the way; they’re side roads that may become the main path--or enhance it in ways I hadn't visualized in my original way of thinking. Much more positive than thinking of them as failures.

If you take away nothing else, try this: The final definition of success is up to you. You have to live with it. If you choose to live with someone else’s idea of success, you may regret it, because you may never reach their goal. Your own is more important—to you.


1 comment:

  1. Interesting ways of looking at it, and I guess everyone defines success (and failure) in his or her own way.