Saturday, May 1, 2010

Overcoming the F Word: Failure

I've said it before, I'll say it again. Idealism is risky business. Idealism is the perspective that we can and will change things for the better. It's a great attitude and perspective to have. Except when your expectations are unrealistic. Because failure can be just around the corner.

Failure. The things you thought you were going to accomplish. The jobs you thought you were going to get. The problems you thought you had solutions to. When we fall short of these spoken or unspoken expectations, it leaves us feeling inadequate. Empty. Unmotivated.

But let's get something straight. Fail is an event. Failure is an identity. And the difference between the two means the world. Just because you failed once, twice, a thousand times. It doesn't make you are a failure.

A lot of us are very capable people. Passionate, talented, educated people. And a lot of us are jobless or stuck in jobs we are unhappy with. We have ideal jobs and dreamed opportunities, but we are stuck in an economy that is overrun with unemployment and unwilling to take risks.

It hurts me to watch so much talent and passion graduate from higher education only to be thrust into the terrible job market.

I want you to really believe this next statement:

Your lack of progress towards your goals does NOT make you a failure.

You may fail to get a job. You may fail when you start your business. You may fail at being productive this month. You may have failed by making the wrong choices. But these events of failing do not make you a failure.

So what does makes you a failure? Giving up.

Giving up on what God has given you in your heart to do. Giving up on your goals. Giving up is the real failure.

Don't let your past and current fails define you. Instead, use this time to build resilience. A refusal to say 'I give up.' A refusal to say 'I've had enough.'

I was amazed when I read this passage from John Maxwell,

"The terrible truth is that all roads to achievement lead through the land of failing."*

Achievement is approached through failing. Why?

1. Because we learn what not to do next time. We become smarter.

2. Because we learn resilience. We know how to stand against resistance.

3. Because we learn faith. We learn to trust in God for what we cannot do on our own.

Unrealistic idealism says that you will succeed without any problems, without a moment of failing. Realistic idealism says, "Yes, I am going to fail. I am going to fail a lot before I arrive."

I applaude your dedication and your dreams. I encourage you to keep trying. I want you to know that your past and current failed attempts to move forward are only momentary. They will pass.

Finally, remember the advice of James.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)


What were the greatest lessons in your recent failing? Did your faith grow as a result?

*Quote from John Maxwell's Failing Forward. A powerful and encouraging read for anyone who may be misunderstanding failure.