There is a type of household that is “I want what I want, and I want it now.“ And then there’s ours, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”
We have always operated under the idea that sometimes life is fair, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes things go your way, and sometimes they don’t. It’s equally important how you handle both.
It’s usually fairly easy to handle the triumphs and the good times; handling the failures is a little more difficult. Maybe it’s the way we view failures. Or even what we deem as a “failure.”
Thomas Edison said, “I never once failed at making a lightbulb. I just found out 99 ways not to make it work.”
Maybe we are too liberal in our use of the word failure. Finding out what doesn’t work is sometimes more important than finding out what does work.
We treat success as a one-shot, get-it-right-the-first-time, outcome. We’ve all heard of actors who have had “overnight success” that was 10 years in the making. When we learn from each “failure,” they merely become stepping stones to success, not an outcome.
I think my view of this changed when Madi was in fourth grade and started having headaches. Frequent and severe. They didn’t and couldn’t even tell us what was wrong. It was a diagnosis of exclusion: CT scan, no brain tumor as had been suspected. Bloodwork, no autoimmune diseases. Spinal tap: AH HA. Something called pseudotumor.
She had too much pressure in her spinal column, and it was putting pressure on her optic nerve. If left untreated, it could cause permanent blindness. When diagnosed, though, it was simply and easily treatable.
I never once thought of these tests as failures. I was thankful for each and every one of them, and I thought of them as one step closer to finding the problem so we could work on the solution. It’s so easy to get frustrated with things when we see them as failures, but a case like this causes you to change the way you view things.
I read about a concept in the tech world today. They call it fail fast. Things are changing so rapidly in today’s society that there is not enough time to fully flesh out ideas. By the time that could happen, the ideas are already obsolete. So the new plan is to throw several things out, see what sticks, and move forward only with what is culled from the masses. That way they haven’t put time, effort, and money into the things that aren’t going to pan out.
Paul and I have a friend who made a decision to go into business for himself right out of school. It was a great idea, a perfect plan. He just tried to execute it too soon, without the benefit of experiencing the ins and outs of that specific field. It is the equivalent of opening a restaurant just because you learned to cook. He deemed himself a failure. Far from it; now because of this “failure,” when he works for someone else who already has built up their business, he will be aware of different aspects of the business and will learn things that previously he might have simply overlooked.
All this talk of failure and success brought to mind a wonderful quote. You know my fondness for Churchill's wit. This little gem just sums it up, “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” When we can do this, there’ll be no stopping us!