Successful Failure: Experiments That Don’t Work

successful failureI did a talk where I asked the crowd to respond on a card by finishing this sentence; “my greatest fear in life is _____.”  I was taken back a little when I saw the results after the weekend, without me giving them any prompting to what they might write in the blank, the overwhelming majority of people wrote that their greatest fear in life was “failure”. I must confess, that dealing with this topic is not a strength for me, I’m not a person who lives with a lot of fears. (It may be that I’m just more oblivious than others.) Fear of failure is not typically on my radar, mostly because of definition. I firmly believe that Thomas Edison said it best when he was asked about all of his many failed experiments from trying to invent the light bulb, he responded: “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That comment showed that Edison had a healthy view of success; he knew and understood that to succeed you are going to have to have many experiments that don’t work in every area of life. He said: “Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”  

No Success Without Failure (Experiments That Don’t Work)

As you pursue doing anything of worth and value you are bound to make mistakes and wrong decisions. In that respect there is no success without failure. God created you as His masterpiece and He never wastes an opportunity or an experience, He will always use them to build your character as His masterpiece if you will allow Him to. The key is for you to expect and prepare for failure rather than to fear it. Know that it’s simply part of the process of living successfully as God’s masterpiece and be willing to allow Him to turn them into life lessons toward success.

Make Every Failure A Successful Failure

To live successfully as the masterpiece God created you to be you need to be able to make every failure a successful failure. Here are 4 behaviors to help you do so:

 1.     Focus On Tomorrow’s Potential.

In this age of multitasking you may tend to think you can do it all. The truth is that you cannot focus on your potential as a masterpiece while focusing on failures of the past. Focusing on failures of the past will lead to regret and bitterness and repress potential.  Learn the valuable lesson that you need to learn so you are not doomed to repeat it, but focus on tomorrow’s potential.

2.     Make Sure The Buck Stops With You.

It’s become a cultural norm to cast blame for all of our failures onto someone else or something else. But those who do so short change themselves of the lessons that can and should be derived from the experience of a failure and are more apt to repeat it.

3.     Choose Optimism Over Pessimism.

In my book Life Palette I wrote: “The key for your Life Palette is to utilize creative optimism to get the positive results God desires for you. This is closely tied to faith, in that it’s highly improbable you’ll grow in your faith if you view life through cynical lenses. The apostle Paul said it this way: “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:13-14) Notice his optimistic attitude toward the future and eternity. Not recounting the failures of the past or allowing them to dictate his present, Paul looked forward to the potential He had through Christ. Think of the story of the fisherman who said if he were going fishing for Moby Dick, he would be sure to take tartar sauce with him on the boat. He was totally expecting to have a meal.”

4.     Act Rather Than Re-act.

The fear of failure will cause you to live life as reactive, in other words to wait until you are forced to change or make a decision. To make failure successful failure, choose to be a person of action. Despite your fears and set-backs, continue to go forward toward living the vision God has for you as His masterpiece. Take action! Be strategic. Don’t let mistakes, failures or disappointment get you off track. Reroute in the same way you would if you were on vacation heading for a destination with detour, you certainly would not give up on the journey, you would re-route. Be a person of action.

 Next Steps:

What is your perception of failure and success? Do you agree with Edison? Of the four behaviors necessary to make failure successful failure, which one are you going to focus on the most? Why?