Week Two: Preparing for Failure (Read Week One: An Honest Look at Failure )
A good model for failure is the toddler who’s just learning to walk. Most of them practice by cruising (walking around a coffee table or moving down the length of a sofa while holding on). After they feel comfortable they will take two or three short steps from one stable anchor to another. Eventually, they let go completely.
Inevitably, they fall.
It doesn’t matter what their temperament is, it doesn’t matter what their parent’s annual income is, it doesn’t matter if they watch cartoons all day and eat cookies or if they listen to Mozart and eat tofu, they are going to fall down — a lot. Most of them will bump their head repeatedly, they will fall and scrape hands and knees, and they will crash into furniture and amazingly, none of this stops them.
They all get right back up and try it again and again and again until they can walk.
Some cry when they fall. Some look shocked that they fell. Some wait to see if help is forthcoming before they get back up. Some refuse any help at all. Most will respond in all of these ways depending on who’s looking and how close or far away it is from nap time. Those are all acceptable styles of dealing with failure in the short term. The important lesson is that they never stop trying. They are the picture of determination.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1.
Watch out for the Naysayer
The person who seems to suffer most is the one who is watching the toddler try and fail. It pains us to think that someone we love is surely going to get hurt. That is why people who love you will try to protect you from doing something they are sure is going to hurt you. So that is when the negatives start to fly.
It can come in the form of horror stories about others who have gotten hurt (lost income, prestige, you name it) trying to do the same thing you are planning to do. It can come in the form of “facts” that prove you can’t achieve your goal (not enough money, no contacts, general economy is weak, whatever). It can come in the form of “subtle sabotage” in not helping with anything or even “forgetting” to follow-through on a commitment to assist you. It can come in the form of “guilt” about how much time, money, etc. this is taking away from family, children, spouse, or even housework!
People who genuinely love you may not come right out and tell you they think you are bound to fall down, but they certainly will be willing the plant this deception in your mind and let you take it from there. Be prepared. They just don’t want you to see you get hurt. Remember that Jesus had to deal with Thomas’ doubt, Peter’s contrary attitude and Judas’ betrayal. Just smile serenely. And, get back up.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. – Hebrews 12:3
Watch out for Your Own Perfect Plan
Toddlers take delight in the fact that they are upright and they are mobile. They don’t always take the shortest route from Point A to Point B. They get distracted (stopping to see if they can fit a block in their mouth); they decide to go back to crawling on all fours (if it will get them where they want to go faster). They don’t get embarrassed about falling. They don’t have a maximum number of times they can fall down each day; they don’t have a minimum number of times they can get back up. They just concentrate each day on learning how to walk.
In many cases, before we even start a new undertaking, we have determined exactly what the results should be. We have a specific expectation or a particular outcome in mind. To be sure in our career or business life this is a reflection of what we have been erroneously taught. Set a measurable goal, set a time frame, secure your resources (time, money, manpower, materials) and get to work!
What makes us feel like failures (remember we said last week that the word failure means deception) is when we don’t meet our own expectations. When we don’t hit the target exactly in the center, we wonder what happened.
A plan is just a framework or guideline. Success and achievement are highly individualized. For one woman, success might be cutting family expenses so she can stay at home with the children. For another it could be growing a business to provide jobs for hundreds of others so they can support their families. If you follow the principles of planting your seed (prayer, faith, time, money, support, hard work, etc.) be assured that you will reap a harvest. Don’t forget that some crops can be harvested in the same year they are planted and others take much longer to mature. Be prepared. Be open to receive a non-specific outcome (accepting God’s will). Be flexible and revise your plan(s). Laugh out loud when the results surprise you. And, get back up.
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11.
Watch out for Times to Rejoice
Most parents know instinctively that they cannot carry a child in their arms forever. The child needs to grow and reach a level of independence. So parents watch them fail and fail and fail and finally succeed!
Don’t forget the principle that success always follows failure.Everybody is delighted. Everybody is joyous. Everybody is more than willing to remind you how they always thought you could achieve your dreams!
The lesson here is faith and persistence. Each child (and each one of us) will experience setbacks and some will take significantly longer than others to learn to walk. But most children will stay with it until they have mastered the skills needed to walk — achieving balance, developing forward momentum, turning right or left when necessary and even learning when to put the brakes on. Those are some of the same skills we need to master for business and career success. All of these challenges won’t be mastered at the same time. Nor will all of them be mastered completely.
Recognize what you have accomplished and rejoice. The point of our work is to bring joy into our lives and into the lives of our friends and family. Be prepared. Take time to celebrate your successes at each step along the way. Share those successes with others. And, keep going!
And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God. – Ecclesiastes 3:13.