Learning the Lessons of Failure

Life has little regard for losers. They’re at the back of the pack, relegated to picking over left-overs rather than attaining the prizes for which they work.

At best it gives them honorable mention, a quick nod that simultaneously praises and slaps them upside the head, often followed by words like, “Good job. Just not good enough.”

Wow, it can be harsh.

I’ve learned this lesson firsthand. Because I was never good enough — at least in my own mind.

Not good enough.

It didn’t matter that I excelled at so many things, since however well I did, I could always be better. And I reminded myself of that over and over again.

In fact, throughout most of my life the search for perfection was perhaps my most-defining characteristic. I could be better at a task than everyone else — and in a lot of areas I usually was — but unless it achieved that mythical state of perfection, it wasn’t enough. Something inside me drove me to try harder, and most importantly, perform better.

It was through those efforts that I saw myself — as a high achiever who could accomplish anything he set his mind on. And that meant one thing.

Doing it right. And not stopping until I did.

Yet for as important as stellar performance in this world is to achieving “success,” even its attainment wasn’t enough. There was always more.

Little did I know my life wasn’t about learning to do it right. It was about learning to fail, to be okay with allowing myself to be imperfect.

Lord knows I’ve failed a lot. As I look back on my life, my biggest regrets came from those failures. Among the worst? Failure to follow my heart. Failure to love with all of it all of the time. And most of all, failure live up to the impossibly-high standards I set for myself.

But when push comes to shove, I wouldn’t change a thing.

The silver lining of failure

Those moments of failure have made me the man I am today. Wiser. More humble. And best of all, better able to accept the imperfections in myself, not to mention others.

Success can be a wonderful thing. But its trappings — like money, influence, and the ability to get and do more of what you want — are as intoxicating as they are addictive.

There are some people for whom everything falls in line when they pursue success or whatever else it is they seek. They live lives that appear to be blessed, bestowed with grace and abundance at every turn.

Oh, if it were only that easy for the rest of us.

For most of us fall short somewhere along the line. Whether we’re not good enough, or things just don’t fall our way so we can accomplish all we set out to, we have to learn to fail.

Fall down. Get up. Fall down. And get up again. Over and over it goes, with failure rearing its ugly head in all the wrong places — the ones where we want to be, where success lies.

But through that effort we learn what’s important to us, and what we’re all about. And maybe even how we can do better.

Don’t get the idea that we’re perfect around here. I know I’m not. I’m just a guy who has learned to fail, to fall down and pick myself up and continue on.

I’ve learned to love that guy who isn’t perfect. It’s taken me a long time, and sometimes we don’t get along so well. But we’re in this together, and I know I can’t get where I want to go without him, warts and all.

Nevertheless, at my core I know that those warts are what this life is all about, and it’s how I relate to them that makes all the difference in how I experience it.

So forgive me if I’m not someone you can put up on a pedestal. I’m much more comfortable down here on the ground, weaving my way through the obstacles created to make sure I don’t get too cocky along the way.

While I don’t always like it, I’m beginning to appreciate the guy inside me who doesn’t give up, who is learning to live with his shortcomings and go on.

Life doesn’t stop when we succeed. It doesn’t stop when we fail, either. They are just rungs on the ladder of life we each must climb in our quest to get more out of our time here.

I hope you’re making the most of yours. I’m doing the best I can with mine.

God bless you indeed.

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