How to Stand up to Failure
When we give ourselves permission to fail, we at the same time give ourselves permission to excel. – Eloise Ristad
Failure is like a woman you accidentally bumped into on the street. She follows you home and lives in your shadow. Ever so often, she reminds you of how you met.
Finally, you stand up to her: “Tell me everything you have to say and leave."
And Failure cheerfully responds, “That’s all I ever wanted—to teach you some wisdom and move out of your way.”
Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker.— Zig Ziglar
Four Characteristics of Failure
- Failure is transitory, but she harasses you as long as you allow her.
- Failure challenges you to do something differently to obtain different results.
- Failure is not your enemy but she will sabotage your purpose if you treat her like one.
- Failure not only teaches you; she empowers you to teach what you learned.
(1) Entrepreneurial Failure
The Story of R. H. Macy*
Macy's Manhattan, NY Store
Rowland Hussey Macy was born on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts in 1822. By age 36, failure had taught him many lessons including, perseverance, creativity, commitment to purpose, and the importance of designing a unique plan for success. Following is a list of his failures, leading up to his success on his seventh attempt at retailing.
- His first entrepreneurial effort was a thread and needle store in Boston. He worked hard, but it failed within a year.
- His second effort was a dry goods store. He worked hard, but failed again.
- His third attempt was in partnership with Samuel S. Houghton, and he learned much; but after a year decided that he wanted something different.
- Macy and his brother, Charles traveled west to California to mine gold. They failed to get rich in gold, but seized the opportunity to sell goods to the miners. They opened Macy and Company in Marysville, north of Sacramento. When the miners left the area, so did the Macy brothers.
- Macy opened a dry goods store in Haverhill, Massachusetts, north of Boston. By now, failure had taught him some important lessons and challenged him to develop his unique style of business: selling at fixed prices, cash only, heavy advertising. That business also failed.
- He tried again, and after three years, failed again and declared bankruptcy.
He decided to try another line of business. He worked as a stockbroker, then as a real estate broker. He made some money, but failed again.
7th Attempt: In 1858, at age 36, Macy moved to Manhattan where he made his seventh attempt at retail. In twelve months, he achieved tremendous success and in twelve years, the store averaged $1 million in sales per year.
Today, with the acquisition of stores from other companies, there are about 800 Macy’s department stores. Macy died in 1877, an example of a man who stood up to failure.
(2) Academic Failure
Bill Gates dropped out of college.
Maybe you dropped out of high school or college because:
- you lacked the talent to cope
- your juvenile attitude got you into trouble
- adverse circumstances presented obstacles.
The fact that you dropped out is permanent, but the causes are almost always reversible. First, decide the direction you want your life to take, and consider the options.
- The Community College Times offers several links to established programs for getting high school dropouts back on track.
- There are numerous links to online college programs.
"Bill Gates dropped out of college. So did Michael Dell. So did Mr. Zuckerberg, who made the Forbes billionaires list at 23", according to the New York Times (20/12/02).
College education is important but it is not a substitute for character. Good work ethics can survive without it. Failure cannot stalk you when you are determined to thrive despite your past experience.
(3) Financial Failure
Entrepreneurs average 3.8 failures before they make it.
The average for entrepreneurs is 3.8 failures before they finally make it in business. Macy’s failures were almost twice the average. Let his attitude inspire you.
Financial failure can also create personal losses like foreclosures, repossessions and loss of credit. Take responsibility for your contribution to your dilemma and learn money managing skills from agencies like GreenPath. They teach you useful tips you might never learn if failure had not sent you.
(4) Moral Failure
Moral failure reminds you of better capabilities.
If you experience moral failure, it is because you have acted contrary to the moral principles you choose to live by. Your self-deceit resulted in a fallen self-image. Failure reminds you of the importance of good character, and the steps necessary to live with a free conscience.
- Confession –admitting your failure— helps you focus on gaining strength where you are weak.
- Repentance—condemning your failure— makes you examine what you really believe, and the direction you honestly want to follow.
- Forgiveness—accepting God’s forgiveness for your failure (which some refer to as, forgiving yourself), allows you to understand that you are not your failure.
Fear of who knows about your failure and what they will say, can tie you to the failure. You do not have control over people and their thoughts about you. Let their gossip work for you by providing the incentive to get up, leave your failure with them, while you move forward more humble, but more focused.
(5) Failed Relationships
Failed relationships motivate improvement in people skills.
If you ever get divorced or experience a breakup in any special relationship, failure motivates you to make the following steps for your emotional healing and for improving your chances of better relationships in the future.
- Examine your attitude and actions for the part you may have played in the failed relationship.
- Deal with your damaged emotions before jumping into another relationship.
- Assess your weakness and strength for an awareness of how to proceed in a new relationship.
- Forgive the other person for their contribution.
- Pick up the pieces and get back on track to fulfill your purpose.
Do you have an experience of failure which comes to your mind often?
Failure is like a woman you accidentally bumped into on the street. She follows you home and at your invitation, she teaches you ways to improve your game.
Finally, you express your thanks, and she leaves.
On her way out, she reminds you, “That’s all I ever wanted—to provoke you into taking on new challenges."
Where would you be, if you had not stood up to failure?
*Macy's story adapted from John C. Maxwell's Failing Forward (Thomas Nelson,Inc. Nashville, Tennessee, 2000)
© 2013 Dora Isaac Weithers