One of the most difficult experiences anyone can have is a personal failure. No one likes failure and no one wants to live in “failure mode”. Have you seen any “personal failure” seminars being promoted lately? There probably would not be a lot of takers! However, I am sure you would agree that some of the most valuable lessons you and I have learned in life have come through the failures we have all experienced.
Failures are painful. The great British writer, C.S. Lewis, once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our infirmities but, shouts to us in our pain.” It is very true that when we experience deep pain, we usually get the message that is being communicated to us!
If we will begin to look at our failures as friends and receive them, rather than resist them, we will learn how to treasure each failure and the personal growth it brings into our life.
One of the greatest writers of the twentieth century was Ralph Waldo Emerson. I recently came across one of his quotes in which he captured this concept extremely well. He said, “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All of life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble!”
That really is what life is all about, learning and growing! I do not particularly like this concept, but I have learned to embrace it. The more I receive my failures and learn from them, as well as my successes, the better off I become in every area of my life. When I live in denial or blame, there is very little personal growth. It neither helps me nor other people.
Once again, the reason this is so difficult is because it is painful. I do not choose to think of myself as a failure, but I have had many failures in my life. Someone once said that failure is an event, not a person. That captures the concept of treasuring failures because they become teachers rather than accusers that guide me on the path of life.
I once was listening to a gifted older woman share about her life. She had a small whiteboard and was drawing some peaks and valleys to illustrate the journey of her life. At the bottom of the whiteboard there were many long, broad and rough valleys (representing daily life). At the top of the whiteboard there were only a few tall peaks (representing the rare, incredible, exhilarating experiences of life). Then she did something I will never forget. She took the board from the easel and turned it upside down. Suddenly, there were many long and broad peaks at the top of the whiteboard (which had now become mountain tops) and only a few valleys down below. She explained that she had come to understand that the valleys (which were now at top of the picture had actually become her mountain tops) because they had occupied most of the time where the routines of her life had been spent. The “mountaintop experiences,” which were now down below in the valley, turned out to be the “bonus times” in her life. They were few and far between; they were the exception, not the rule. They were still wonderful and special, they just did not happen on a daily basis!
I never will forget the visual that she gave us that day. I have come to see that she was right. The common, everyday valleys of life really are where I learn the most about myself, business, other people, my family, life, and God. I have stopped living for the occasional mountaintop experiences. The daily routines of life ARE my mountaintop experiences! And, when unusual, monumental experiences come, that is great. Those become the occasional “bonus experiences”.
Failure has become a friend of mine because I see it as a great teacher. It is not meant to hurt me, but to help me. It is not personal. It is just a good teacher that can capture my attention very quickly. Surgery is often painful but very necessary and beneficial!
Do not resist the failures you experience. Learn from them and let them guide you to become the person you were meant to be.
Tip: Treasure every failure!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm