How Failure can Show us to be Successful

I don’t care who you are or where you are in your life, but at some point, I know you have come across failure. There is no way around it, and there is certainly no way to avoid it forever. Failure comes in many shapes, in more than one medium and it is always lurking around the corner. Failure can be the result of a mistake, bad decision, guilt, wrongdoing or any number of faults. I know I have failed more than once, and I’d be willing to bet you have too – it’s just a matter of admitting it at the right moment.

I whole-heartedly believe that success and failure are not always mutually exclusive. Failure is not the end of the line; rather it is an open door to a new opportunity. Recognizing our failures is one of the most important qualities we must have. Beyond that, once we recognize that we have failed, we must accept it. Nothing can change unless we can challenge ourselves to accept our own faults – a challenge that is never easy.

Accepting our faults is commonly seen as a sign of showing weakness. I disagree. I think it is the exact opposite. There is no greater sign of strength than admitting and accepting our problems, issues or faults.

For some reason, one that I cannot quite get my head around, we live in a world that displaces responsibility. Our society allows us to believe that we do not own our mistakes or faults, rather somebody or something else is always to blame.

Must there always be a third party to shoulder the blame? Why can’t people accept their own problems and faults? I know at times I have been just as guilty as the next person with respect to this; I’m not going to hide it.

I am willing to venture a guess why.

It seems as though people fear adversity. People don’t like to be wrong and they don’t want to feel vulnerable. Adversity, being wrong and feeling vulnerable all walk hand-in-hand with each other. I especially think adversity, creates a sense of insecurity. Think about it. Have you ever had a plan fail, an idea fail or a stretch of time where it seems like nothing can go right? Stress is usually the first emotional response, followed by an overwhelming feeling of adversity. Maybe it seems like the whole world is against you.

Well here it is, the ultimate challenge to understanding and accepting failure. Adversity can very easily bring out the very worst in someone – we call those people quitters. Adversity, though, can also bring out the very best in a person.

I like to look for the best in people – in fact, I demand it. Leaders are born when times are tough; leaders are the first to recognize opportunity in failure; and leaders thrive in adversity, because that’s what failure is, adversity. When a team is losing, or when something goes wrong, who is the first to accept the blame? A good leader.

How do I know this? Well, it’s pretty plain and simple. Living with cystic fibrosis is like living with adversity at every moment of every day, and (in an attempt not to sound corny) I have to lead myself through it. Challenges are a constant in my life. When one problem goes away, I always seem to wake up with a new one the next day.

Things could be totally fine on Monday, but on Tuesday I might cough up blood, so I scale back my therapies to allow my lungs to heal. Come Thursday, maybe the bleeding has stopped, but a bacterial infection has spread because I wasn’t able to continue with effective treatments. Now, two weeks later, perhaps the infection passes after a course of antibiotics, but the antibiotics have given me the wonderful side effect of diarrhea, so as a result, I’m 10 pounds underweight. One problem solved, another one materializes. That’s what living with cystic fibrosis is like.

Is it somebody else’s fault that these things happen to me? No, it isn’t. At some point I have to take responsibility for what is happening to my body, and believe me, I do. It stresses me out each time I find myself sick. I can’t help but think that I must shoulder the blame. While I do understand that the science behind being sick isn’t always black and white, and some of it is up to fate, I do have to believe that I am able to control my own wellbeing. If I am not able to control my own wellbeing then, what the f*ck am I doing here? I don’t spend hours every day taking care of myself not to feel like I am in control of my health. The moment I lose control is the moment I have lost. I don’t plan on losing.

It boils down to my compliancy with my medications, diet, lifestyle and a whole list of other factors. Each time I fail to keep myself healthy, I always look for a reason. What did I do wrong? Did I ask my doctor the right questions? Why am I sick? What didn’t I do well enough? How can I fix this? What must change?

That last one is the important one. Change. What must I change moving forward? Because, that’s all life really is… just one step at a time moving forward. You don’t have to read The Great Gatsby to understand that idea. Every decision, good or bad, that I have made in the past, stays in the past. Whatever I choose to do right now, in the present, is what will impact my future. Regret does not exist. Any bad decision can be overcome with the right course of action, and I can promise you that.

I’m really not doing rocket science over here, nor am I trying to reinvent the wheel. I’m simply addressing any number of problems that I may have with a humble formula. How did I fail? Where is the opportunity to be better? What must I change to succeed the next time I am faced with a similar challenge?

You can apply this to your own life, too. At first it might be quite hard. In fact, I’d be lying to you if I said that it wouldn’t be a challenge. The most difficult part of this formula will be that it is okay to accept failure. Once you are able to see that maybe a bad decision was, in fact, the wrong course of action, you’ll be able to move forward. Master your ability to see your faults and learn from them, and then you will be able to succeed with anything you set your heart to.

And let me finish with this, success isn’t a value or something materialistic. Success is an idea. We are successful when our hearts are filled with happiness, and our passions, dreams and wishes become a reality. If you really want to know what success feels like, don’t be afraid to fail – failure may very well lead you to understand what it takes to be successful.