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Friday, July 17, 2009

What is Failure?

Yesterday, someone asked me to think about the word "failure." She told me to notice how much I use it to refer to my own life, both out loud and in thoughts. I realize that I do, in fact, use that word quite often. I seem to dictate to myself that I am a failure every time I can't do something perfectly, no matter how many things I am doing well.

I subscribe to a daily online meditation called "Today's Gift." This morning, the meditation was fittingly about failure. Here it is:

What's the difference between success and failure? Ideal conditions? Half again as much effort? Twice the talent? Ten times "the breaks"? Or is it simply that some people have what it takes and some people don't?

Vince Lombardi, the football coach who brought the Green Bay Packers from fifteen losing seasons to successive world championships, thought success was a matter of inches. A bit more concentration, one extra push in practice, a consistent second effort for a tiny additional gain. He didn't ask his players to be something other than they were - he asked them to improve their best an inch at a time. He knew inches add up, in life as in sports.

In life as in football, it is often the little things that count: going to meetings when we feel like staying home, or speaking our minds, no matter how insignificant our opinion may seem. When we feel like simply hiding - inches make the difference.

Today, I will be aware that I am a champion in the making. I may not make a complete turnaround today, but I will make progress.

So, what are your thoughts? What constitutes success? How can one know when it is really failure, and when is it just self-abuse?


  1. What an inspiring post. Thanks-- you have no idea how much I needed that. I hope you have a good weekend.

  2. Sorry, but my phone rang and I lost my train of thought and posted the above comment-- I wasn't finished.

    My favorite part of your post was this: "Today, I will be aware that I am a champion in the making. I may not make a complete turnaround today, but I will make progress."

  3. That's okay, you can post as many comments as you like.

    I think this is exactly what I needed to see today, as well.

  4. I really don't know. Like the football analogy, there are so many ways to measure success.

    I succeed and fail all the time in the things I do every day.

    But if I had to ask "Is my life a success or failure?", I don't know I could answer that. On the one hand I could say that creating children and raising them in a safe environment means automatically my life is a success. That would be the thing that jumps out at me the most.

    But do I "feel" like I'm a success? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I don't think anyone can give a definitive answer because it's a moving target.

    But great question and thanks for bringing it up.


  5. Shen, awesome post with a great topic to ponder!

    For us to complete our journey we are already a champion in my opinion, we will just receive the reward of our eventual freedom!

    Blessings dear one!!!

  6. wow what a great post and a great topic! :)

    i tend to think that there's no such thing as failure. i mean, i get self-abusive and perfectionistic. but it's more the idea that i'm just not good enough. but ideas like failure, and to think that i'm "broken" suggest finality. like it's over, or too late. personally i don't think it's ever too late to keep going, to keep trying, to make a change, etc. people are never hopeless no matter what. people may feel hopeless, but that is another story.

    as far as i'm concerned those things which indicate success in a person are the ability to work on ourselves, to admit we need help, to admit we aren't perfect, to be introspective and evaluate what we want from life...

    other people may "look" like they have it all together and "perfect" on the outside. but i think those of us who aren't trying to fool anyone least of all ourselves are better off.

    i like this quote:

    "If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down." ~Mary Pickford

    as far as i'm concerned, you are no failure shen. you are already a champion. :)

  7. Paul, My life has revolved around my children for over 20 years, so I would agree that this is how I have measured my success. I think that is part of why I am now having a harder time feeling good aboutmy day to day life. My kids are bigger now - some grown, some nearly grown - and so my job description has changed. I know I've done a good job with my kids, and I love that, but my life isn't over yet and I need to find new ways to be successful.

    You are right - every day is a new challenge and a new opportunity to fail or succeed.

    Maybe that is a big part of it... whether I look at it like a challenge or an opportunity.

    JBR, interesting perspective. Maybe just making it through and doing what I can do should really be enough.

    Thank you, that was a really great comment and a sweet way to end it. I really do try, but sometimes it doesn't seem like enough.

    I loved the quote. "you may have a fresh start everyday" is another way of saying "take it one day at a time", I think. That is something I am not all that good at yet.

  8. hi shen~ i feel like i know what you mean. no matter how hard i try, some days it really doesn't seem like enough.

    i think it's important too if we can feel good about ourselves even on those days. i have found myself working so hard on things, it feels like i put endless pressure on myself to "be well already". and am unforgiving of myself when i still struggle with things, especially when i find myself working on things i *thought* i had already worked through.

    but i think it important to be gentle and understanding of ourselves. instead of being like the horse driver with a whip. we need to get down from up there, come down and feed our horse an apple and brush it's hair you know? :)

    give ourselves hugs. say it's ok to be wherever we are today. treat ourselves with love.

    (((safe hugs and an apple :)))

  9. "Do not judge a work of art by its imperfections. "Fortune Cookie"

    Journey on,


  10. Shen dear, I believe God will give you enough strength for each day to accomplish what you need.

    Blessings dear one.


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Co Creation

Co Creation
We create the life we live

Love your inner child...

...for she holds the key...

...to your personal power.
A lesson is woven into each day.
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