Responding to Failure


How we respond to failure is a choice, a very hard one. It is particularly hard when it is not our norm, when it shows up, as failure always does. Interestingly, for some it takes longer than others for it to both show up and be dealt with.

My recent reading has included books on Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson. I am surprised how little I knew about each of them. After all, I graduated with a BA in History. Upon reflection, I realize that there were some similarities. In each case there was failure, depression, and a struggle with their role in the world.

When each came face to face with their frailties, their failures, it almost overwhelmed them. In each case they finally came to the point of personal choice. Their personal choice, how to respond to failure, depression and at some level, a desire to escape. And if not escape, at least to change the dynamic and to make the failures evaporate.

In his book about Jefferson on the “Art of Power,” Jon Meacham shares both the circumstance of Jefferson’s failure as Governor of Virginia and the death of his wife. The result of those circumstances brought him to a point of decision: whether to retreat into self-destructive pity or to move forward to achieve those results that will “replace” or overshadow the failure.

Isn’t this the circumstance that we all face at one time or another? “There is none who have not fallen short, no not one.” While this is a fact for all, I have noticed that it is more difficult for some than others. The some includes those that have experienced success and have little experience with failure. They have less practice in “walking humbly.” This is a hard lesson for all of us to learn without accessing the wisdom of Proverbs to guide.

Churchill once observed, “There is nothing so exhilarating as to be shot at without result”. Coming to grips with what is true, while deciding to yet move forward with life is the mark of all great men, and women.

I have noticed that there are many who truly are not prepared for their last decades. Their choice then becomes how they will deal with that failure, with that reality.

Because there are always options, the decision to begin preparations late is better than to not prepare at all. It is better for a faith-based organization to support its staff at last and at least, better than not at all.

How do we overcome failure? We overcome failure with a decision to do “good” and to use all our talents in the doing.

For more thoughts on this subject, click here to read a poignant letter I recently discovered, “A letter to a suffering friend”.

Let me know your thoughts and comments. Our dialogue continues.

Living with Trusted Advice together

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