In Others’ Words: Redefining Failure

Defining Failure 2017

Failure used to scare me — the thought that I would attempt something and not succeed. And because I was afraid of failing, I said no to a lot of things. Why try something if I couldn’t guarantee success?

If there’s one thing my writing journey has taught me, it’s that I’m going to experience times of success … and I’m also going to experience times of failure. The question is: How am I going to handle both? Does success define me? (No.) Does failure define me? (No.)

But the truth is, I had to learn that who I am is not defined by what what I do — by my failures or successes. By the good days or the bad days. By the positive reviews or the negative ones. By finaling in a contest or not. Or winning an award or not. All of these things can be considered writing successes or failures — and, if I let them, they can become virtual gold stars or little black marks.

When I could separate my sense of self from failure, I could learn from the experiences that didn’t go the way I hoped or planned. Failure was temporary, not fatal. Failure contained lessons to be learned, not condemnation. And I could move past it — and on to the next thing waiting for me along the writing road. The next dream. The next goal. The next “I want to try this, even though it’s scary” endeavor.

In Your Words: How have you redefined failure so that it doesn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams? 




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  1. August 1, 2017, 12:23 am   /  Reply

    The only failure is surrender. The 300 Spartans taught us this at Thermopylae, for who now memorializes Xerxes army of a million and more?

    “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.” This rings through the millennia; this is not failure. This is glory.

    For me…I am not saving the last bullet for myself. The last bullet will cleave the head of one more enemy, and then…

    …and then, I have a knife.

    • August 1, 2017, 6:30 am   /  Reply

      One thing I know for certain, Andrew: The word “surrender” is not in your vocabulary. Each new day is full of reasons not to quit, not to give up.

  2. August 1, 2017, 6:54 am   /  Reply

    Failure is a step, not a trap.

    • August 1, 2017, 6:57 am   /  Reply

      Well said, Jennifer. We have to recognize failure as a step — maybe a momentary setback — and not let it become a snare.

  3. August 1, 2017, 7:33 am   /  Reply

    Great words, Beth. Failure is something I can learn from, grow from. You’re right. It doesn’t define us. But it can shape us into more of the person God created us to be, if we choose to grow from the experience.

    • August 1, 2017, 7:56 am   /  Reply

      Jeanne: Yes, God can use failure to shape us into who He wants us to be. Such hope in this perspective.

  4. August 1, 2017, 7:52 am   /  Reply

    Failure tells me I have to try another way, that what I tried can be marked off the list. Thomas Edison never looked at the lightbulbs that didn’t work as failures, but something to be marked off so he could go on to something else.

    • August 1, 2017, 7:55 am   /  Reply

      Such wise words, Pat. Failure = try another way.

  5. August 1, 2017, 8:04 pm   /  Reply

    I told my sons that failure is success in disguise. Failure produces resilience and perseverance. “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” Proverbs 24:16.

    • August 2, 2017, 8:24 am   /  Reply

      Love your definition of failure, Scoti!

  6. August 3, 2017, 10:16 am   /  Reply

    There is an old Chinese Proverb that says, “Failure is one step closer to success.” I feel that if I don’t fail, I’ve never dreamed enough. Thanks for this reminder today!

    • August 3, 2017, 10:53 am   /  Reply

      “If I don’t fail, I’ve never dreamed enough.” Now that is the attitude of a winner, Michelle!

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