An Ode to Failure. Er, Wisdom. One of Those.

When it comes to digging yourself out of a hole,
excellence is an excellent defense.
But failure takes you deeper.

Failure stretches your edges.
Excellence takes you deep within a narrow pool,
but failure grows your breadth.

Excellence makes you an expert at some thing.
Failure makes you strong at humanity.

Here’s why:
After the failure – you get to see that you’re still alive.
Because you’re still alive, there is hope.
Because there is hope, you can try again.
Or, you can choose to move on.

After the failure, you get to see how the world responds to you.
This clarifies things for you.
Those who are still next to you can be counted on.
Those who have fled are not able to go deeper in their relationship with you.
Do not chase them.
Trust that their response is a gift,
because now you know where your relational edges are.

If no one remains, lean even more into your relationship with Spirit.
As a matter of fact, do that anyway.
Because Spirit is omnipresent.
You can trust that.

Your strongest relationships will be based on Spirit.
Because Spirit is ONLY about real and eternal stuff.
Like Truth. And Love.
Real love. The kind that transcends personalities.

After the failure, you get the opportunity to deconstruct what happened.
You get to look at your part, and see if there is learning there.
You get to choose to learn from the learning.
When you choose to learn from the learning, you get better.
And that is Wisdom. More about that in a sec.

After the failure, you might fail again.
But, now you know how to use failure to work toward your advantage.
And so, you just repeat.

Did you notice something here? Repeated failure is the pathway to excellence.
So fear failure less. Because excellence is not possible without it.

There are all kinds of excellence.
You can be excellent at an art form.
You can be excellent at making croissant.
You can be excellent at computer programming.

But you can’t be excellent at everything all the time.
Because there isn’t time.
Since excellence requires repeated rises from failure.
And repeatedly rising from failure requires time.

So choose carefully what you decide to rise from.
Otherwise, you may end up making the mistake that Stephen Covey (blessings, sir) talks about.
You climb the Ladder of Success, only to find it is leaning on the wrong wall.

Anyway, back to the idea of time and excellence.
Since there isn’t time to be excellent at everything – you have to make yourself comfortable with the idea of strategic mediocrity.

You can develop excellence at some things.
You can get very good at others.
But there isn’t time to be excellent at everything.
That means, you have to choose.
Or not.

If you choose, you get to decide to shape your excellence plan around what matters most to you.
If you don’t choose, if you allow the world to choose for you,
Then you will be really really good at a whole bunch of things that mean nothing to you.

So choose.

And, as life unfolds, and challenges you,
As your failures show themselves to you,
Don’t forget that you have chosen what matters most.
That way you won’t get distracted and end up living a meaningless life.
And your regrets will be fewer.

One more thing about failure –
It’s not your successes that bring you to your greatness,
It’s your failures.

Here’s why –
When you succeed, there is not much left to learn about that thing.
You have completed that particular life lesson,
You know how to do it, and do it well.

But, because failure stretches you,
All learning comes from failure.
In fact, all WISDOM comes from failure.
At the very least, you learn what NOT to do.

In fact, I might even posit that Wisdom is not possible without failure.
Because success doesn’t bring it,
Wisdom is distilled from the lessons of failure.
Thus, without failure there can be no WISDOM.

So, the next time you try something scary, remember this:
The ONLY things that can happen are,
Failure, the pathway to all Wisdom

Seen this way, you can’t lose.
Strike that, you CAN lose.
You can decide not to try.
That’s what failure looks like.

Love, Jennifer

Photo:  Flickr, gogoloopie

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10 Responses to An Ode to Failure. Er, Wisdom. One of Those.

  1. Love you for this one Jen! Something that I have been preaching for years…Can’t help but share a personal experience that helped me to see that “all WISDOM comes from failure.”

    A few years ago, I spend a few months in Sicily, Italy. The breath taking ocean, made that I spend a lot of time at the beach. One day, as I was taking my usual walk to the beach, some of the locals approached me to warn me about the conditions of the waters, “be careful, the current is really strong today, don’t go too deep.” How could I resist, the waves were so amazing, I just couldn’t wait to go swimming in them. Well, at some point, I felt the current dragging me in. I was no longer able to get control. I started waving to my friends for help. I was being swept further and further with the waves taking me under water.
    It was thanks to one of locals who saw I was in trouble, that came out to get me in a motor boat.
    I was terrified. The next day, I did not want to go back, there was no way I would ever go back in the ocean…My Italian friends, tried to encourage me to go back, “you have to back, the ocean is calm today, if you don’t, your fear will continue to haunt you. You know learned how it feels, you are aware of the danger, you will be able to know just how far you can go. Don’t give up on enjoying being out in the ocean.”

    It was not easy, but, I did go back. To this day, I take all the precautions that I never did before. This experience gave me so much knowledge and a very valuable life lesson. Sometimes we might think we have it all figured out. When we fail, our first reaction is to give up. However, if we keep going, we will now have more knowledge, we are in a position to be familiar with the situation and grow from our mistakes. Had I not gone back that same day, I would have missed out on enjoying snorkelling in other parts of the world.

  2. Ann Marie says:

    Jennifer this is exactly what I needed to hear today. I’m struggling with where I can be, and need to be excellent and frankly, it scares the living crap out of me.
    You don’t get to be 56 without some major failures…and re-births. There’s another re-birth coming and your words give me strength to cope with the labor pains of that process.
    Bless you.

  3. Erin Hatton says:

    Wow, Jennifer, this is something I’ve been learning and I’m going to keep learning all my life, I think. Failure is my ultimate fear, but I’m beginning to see that it is not the end, but a new beginning. Thanks for this.

  4. Kama says:

    I am so grateful for all of my failures. It took me a while to realise that but once I did wow did life change. It is my failures that have made me who I am today and the reason why I continue to grow. Not because I no longer have failures but because I am not worried to fail, I know I will grow from them. How freeing!

  5. Love this positive take on failure ~ “It’s not your successes that bring you to your greatness,It’s your failures.” As someone who has made (and is still making!) the transition from victim to survivor I know that it’s my weakness that ultimately make me strong.
    Great blog Jennifer!

  6. Bonnie says:

    Two words “divine intervention.” That is what your post means to me today. Thank you for sharing your amazing talent and brilliance with us. I have a lot to re-think today. Keep these extraordinary posts coming!

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