“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost”.
Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. ~Theodore Roosevelt
Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. ~Denis Waitley
All Great Dream Builders Experience Failures & Setbacks
Entrepreneurs and small business owners are dream builders. They imagined a business and created it; even if it happened out of necessity or life transitions requiring them to re-invent themselves.
If you are among them, you will understand quickly that there will be setbacks and things you did not foresee. The marketplace is ever changing and what you imagined and planned for may not pan out. Sometimes people choose to quit or change directions. This can look like failure, yet what is failure?
Failure as Feedback
When things do not go as planned in our businesses or personal lives and we were passionate about what we wanted we can at first feel the sting of what looks like failure. Even when we realize that all great dream builders experience this, knowing this, may not satisfy us. However, as FDR said, if you never fail you never really live either… “poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat”.
Which do you prefer, living in the gray twilight or going for your dreams with all the ups and downs and possible failures/setbacks?
Thomas Edison had 2000 failures before he successfully developed the incandescent bulb. He however, saw each failure, as feedback on what was not working and felt he was that much closer to finding the right combination with each failure.
When we look at what we might first perceive as failure as only feedback we can then choose to tweak our dream or go in a different direction with the new information we possess.
Thinking of failure as feedback is empowering and gives us valuable information. Perhaps this is not the path we need to be on or there is something even greater coming. Perhaps, like Edison, we need to keep on going. Each person is at choice to decide what he or she will do.
Failure as A Powerful Teacher
In my own journey, one of my greatest lessons was something I saw as a major failure for quite some time. I did not pass the California Bar Exam and quit after three attempts. I had spent 6 years of my life either in law school or studying for bar exams. I studied full time for 6 months for each attempt. The third and final time I had a score of 69% and passing was 70%.
I made a choice to quit studying for the bar exam and let go of being a lawyer. My dream was not to be a lawyer; I stumbled into law school after working an entire summer at a community legal aid center where I represented folks in fair hearings. I loved advocating for people and won a significant number of the fair hearings. This supported people to get the services they were denied. The lawyer in the office suggested I go to law school. I had graduated with a BA in Social Work and law was not what I had passion for, yet I went to law school because I thought I could continue to advocate for others more effectively as a lawyer.
For almost a year after my last attempt at the bar exam, I did not feel very worthy as I had always identified myself by what I was doing and not by who I was as a person. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was 30 years old. I slowly came to realize from this failure that it was who I was deep down that mattered, not what I did. When people asked me what I did I struggled to answer. I felt like a failure so this was conveyed. Eventually, I was able to say with conviction that I was in a transition period and I had no idea what I wanted to do, but knew with absolute certainty being an attorney was no longer my vision. People stopped asking why I didn’t take the bar exam again. I had no passion for law and it was behind me forever.
Failure was a powerful teacher. Eventually, I was lead to my real passion and current career.
Questions to Ask When Confronted With Setbacks/Failure
Here are questions we might ask to help us decide on a course of action when we feel stuck or experience setbacks:
• How can I see this differently?
• What information might make a difference here?
• Who could I talk to about this?
• What other possible solutions are there other than giving up on my dream?
This or Something Better
Sometimes going within and surrendering to a higher power is necessary. When asking for guidance you might try this, ” If this dream is for my highest good, increase my passion for it. If this dream will not benefit myself or others, redirect me. This or something better.”
This has been called open hand learning. We put all of our energy and effort into our dream, yet hold it lightly and with an open hand so we can allow for the guidance that might come to us. When we clutch something too tightly and hold it with a closed fist we can strangle our passion for it. As we are always in an evolutionary process of becoming an even greater expression of our true selves, often there is something even greater coming. We cannot see it. When we invoke, “this or something better” it is a signal to our higher power that we are open to other possibilities that will be a fuller expanded version of our current life.
Think of a time when you failed. Looking back, was it really failure or stepping stones to a higher ordered life? You could not see your future life or even imagine it. Was it filled with lessons you needed to learn to bring you to where you are now?
Helen Keller was right….”no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”
To Your Success!