It’s difficult to trust someone who claims they never fail. This is because everyone fails at something at some period in their lives. Visualize babies. They repeatedly fail as they grow and develop. Babies are not afraid to fail because they don’t have a concept of failure. They only try and try again.
We’ve had big dreams for ourselves. Some of us have arrived at our dreams, some of us didn’t quite get there. The failures encountered along the way may have strengthened us or discouraged us. Perhaps the failures caused us to reevaluate our priorities. If, after reevaluation, we determine the dream is worthwhile, those of us who succeed remain focused and learn from our failures. What makes or breaks success is how we look at failure.
My high school German language teacher, Richard Fabricus, reminded his students that if we were to succeed at learning the language, we should approach the process the same as a baby approaches learning. Babies learn how to communicate because of their lack of fear of failure. Babies do not fear their unskillfulness in conjugating verbs, they simply hone their skills until conjugating verbs becomes second nature–with some help from parents and teachers.
I’ve applied Mr. Fabricus’ advice to other areas of life beyond language learning. When I determine that learning a skill is something that will be of great value to me, the nature of how infants learn comes to mind. When I need more than persistence, I seek help from someone who is skilled at that skill. With the help of the Internet, finding these teachers is more simple than it was in the past.
Babies and small children more readily see the world with an attitude of wonder and curiosity. This way of learning about the world and themselves, coupled with the lack of fear of failure fosters growth and joy of living. Little kids go from fail to fail without losing their enthusiasm for life. It is only later, after overly strict instruction, overt prohibitions, and harsh reprimands for failure that we become fearful of failure.
It is easy to spot someone who has surrendered to failure in life. He continually gloats about his successes and blames other people for his failures. It is the lack of owning one’s mistakes that shows a weakness in ethics. The person who takes responsibility for both success and failure is a trustworthy person. He knows that blaming others is an invalid reason for not achieving his goals. He has not nourished himself with a hearty helping of humble pie.
Speaking of ethics, the absence of ethics leads to failure of character. Taking shortcuts, getting special favors, and cheating may lead to superficial success, but in reality, that person becomes a failure in the art of living. Continually working towards succeeding in the art of living means mistakes will happen. Instead of sweeping errors under the rug or blaming others, the wise person uses failures as stepping stones on the path.
“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”–Bill Gates
As long as we draw breath, we will encounter failures. Success in growing comes to the person who has not lost courage. Self-respect, self-confidence, pure ethical standards, and focus lead to success in the art of living.
One of my close friends, on his deathbed, told those of us around him that knowing he would be dead someday soon was revealing. That’s when he truly realized that all of his fear of embarrassment, his pride, and his fear of failure are trivial matters. His impending death revealed what was really important. Live a good life as long as you can, until you wear yourself out.
To live a good life, we accept that we might fail. If we do our best and still don’t win, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that we sincerely tried. If we don’t accept the possibility of failure, we won’t even try.