In Others’ Words: From Failure to Failure

Success Churchill quote 1.14.13

People like to talk about success — they like to bandy about different definitions for it. Success is this. Success is that.

And they’re all usually talking about something as far from failure as you can get.

I’ve been reading Alton Gansky’s book Imagination @ Work. (Alton’s a friend and a colleague. I admire him. Even if I didn’t know him, I’d recommend his book. It’s like a series of “here’s what I’ve been thinking about” conversations with a witty, intelligent guy.)

But back to the topic at hand: failure.

Alton poses the question: What would you do, if you knew you could not fail? (That is a topic for another blog.)

I answered his question by writing this question in my journal: How do you define failure? 

And then I wrote:

success – less than

And by that I mean that what appears to be success in one person’s eyes can feel like a failure in someone else’s.

Say, for example, I land a book contract.

But I don’t earn out my advance.

Or I don’t win an award.

Or I don’t get offered a second contract.

Or I don’t ______________ (fill in the blank).

It’s the whole “being nibbled to death by ducks” experience. Turning success into failure because it wasn’t good enough.

But Beth, you say, Winston Churchill was talking about success — and defining it as facing failure enthusiastically.

I know. And I love his definition.

But Churchill got me thinking. And so did Alton. We need to enthusiastically face both our failures and our successes and not let the little duckies (dare I name them comparison and envy and disappointment?) nibble them all to pieces.

In Your Words: How do you define failure or success? And how do you face them with enthusiasm? 

Defining Failure and Success Click to Tweet

Is Your Success Being Nibbled to Death by Ducks? Click to Tweet

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17 Comments

  1. January 15, 2014, 6:07 am   /  Reply

    This morning, after something of a frightening night, I could still get up, and take the dogs out. Spitting blood, moving slowly, but I’m doing it.

    Success is doing it.

    I don’t know what failure is. I don’t fail.

    • January 15, 2014, 7:10 am   /  Reply

      Andrew, you inspire me.

      • January 15, 2014, 7:30 am   /  Reply

        Jeanne, thank you. I draw inspiration and hope from your writing, and Beth’s, and from so many of the friends I’ve met through writing.

        You guys point out the fun and faith that make life worth living.

        And we’re going to beat this thing, because I’m gonna live forever.

        • January 15, 2014, 7:36 am   /  Reply

          We’re already walking in the light of eternity, Andrew.

    • January 15, 2014, 7:34 am   /  Reply

      The word “failure” would never cross my mind when I think of you, Andrew.
      N-E-V-E-R.

  2. January 15, 2014, 7:17 am   /  Reply

    The first thing that came to mind was a quote from Mark Batterson, “Success is obedience.” (This reference obeying God’s call in your life.)

    I wish I could hold onto that every day, but I forget it about three seconds in!

    You’re so right. Comparison, envy, and disappointment shift our focus from success to failure. 🙁

    • January 15, 2014, 7:32 am   /  Reply

      Jill:
      Obedience …specifically obeying God. This phrase keeps popping up in my reading (books, blog posts, comments). I’m paying attention.

  3. Susan Tuttle
    January 15, 2014, 8:04 am   /  Reply

    To me success is walking in the purpose and plan God created me for. Failure is running from it because I’m too scared…
    ~to trust Him
    ~of what others will think
    ~of “wordly failure”

    And while I know this is how I look at it, some days I need to talk myself INTO this truth:)

  4. January 15, 2014, 8:18 am   /  Reply

    To me, failure is not trying. Failure is letting the old self creep up when I know better. Failure is the way I learn to be better. Without the failure of making mistakes I wouldn’t become the lady of character God wants me to be. I wouldn’t taste success. I wouldn’t be a writer. Or a tutor. I’m thankful for the moments I fail. God uses those moments to teach me something about Him or about me. Sometimes both. Without some sort of failure along the way, success just doesn’t mean as much.

  5. January 15, 2014, 9:56 am   /  Reply

    Beautiful post, Beth. Yes, defining failure is a good first step. I’ve never thought about that. I’ve labeled myself a failure at times, but that usually comes out of the comparison trap I fall into.

    I think my new-as-of-today definition of success is: Obeying God with all my heart. Whatever He asks of me in a given day, in fulfilling a given calling, in walking close to Him. If I do these things in a day, I am a success in His eyes. And His approval is what I should seek most. So there you have it. 🙂

  6. January 15, 2014, 12:02 pm   /  Reply

    Great thoughts here today, Beth! Success and failure each provide their own lessons. Success teaches us how to deal with pride and managing multiple commitments; failure teaches us … well, the list is long. My first thought when I read your title is that we may go from failure to failure, but God empowers us to also go from strength to strength. Grace!

  7. January 15, 2014, 12:20 pm   /  Reply

    Nibbled to death by ducks? Interesting phrase & concept. Sounds ticklingly fatal, but maybe an enjoyable process? I think I’d rather work hard in order to succeed–and stay ahead of the ducks.

  8. January 15, 2014, 10:42 pm   /  Reply

    Since content/contentment is my word for 2014, this is a perfect post to incorporate into the beginning of my year. It’s key to me figuring out what is success, while not “being nibbled to death by ducks” – a saying I’ve never heard before, but have already fallen in like with. Love it, Beth.

  9. January 16, 2014, 9:29 am   /  Reply

    Right before Peter’s Big Failure, Jesus warned him that Satan had requested permission to sift him like wheat. Then Jesus added, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter’s failure is splashed all over each of the four gospel accounts. Why? I think Peter made sure people knew about His failure. Because the story wasn’t his failure. It was about the restorative grace of God. Failure puts us in a place where we understand on a deeper level how very dependent we are on Christ. “Apart from me, you can do nothing,” Jesus told his disciples.

    Success is learning from our mistakes. And understanding that in the flesh, we are dealing with a very limited resource. But in Christ, the power is limitless.

  10. Terri Tiffany
    January 16, 2014, 5:18 pm   /  Reply

    I think success is keeping on…not giving up on what you want. A writer is successful because they write. I’m successful in life because I live each day.

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