It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. – Bill Gates
I’ve failed more times than I can remember.
From being a lousy husband, to an inattentive father, to a short-cut seeking employee, it’s fair to say I’ve failed thousands of times – if not a lot more.
With each failure comes the usual beating myself up phase. No one is harder on me than me. But after the pity party wraps up, I try to look at the mistakes to see what I can do better next time and to realize the lessons learned.
Owning My Mistakes
After more than 50 years of experiencing failure, these are the ways I’ve learning to own my mistakes. And these are the ways I’m learning to fail well so I can continue working to be the best husband, father and person I can be.
- Don’t delay
Respond immediately when failure happens. Delaying the recognition of failure only prolongs the opportunity to correct what went wrong.
There have been things I’ve written that should have never been published. Reading the words after hitting the Publish button, I knew the post failed to deliver the message intended. With each poorly written post, I immediately try to find what went wrong, like being too rushed or not having enough passion for the topic, so I can better recognize what failure looks like next time.
- Own it fully
Failure is personal, which can create a lonely, isolated feeling. The temptation to deflect this feeling shortchanges the lessons that come with owning a failure completely. As humbling as making mistakes is, I’ve learned that holding myself accountable is the first step to moving past failure.
Facing divorcing 12 years ago, the only thing that would save my marriage was for me to own the mistakes I made. It was only when I started acting and speaking with a contrite heart that Mary Beth found the trust to try again.
- The art of the apology
Failure sometimes makes it necessary to apologize. Knowing how to offer a heartfelt apology can begin to heal what has been damaged.
Apologizing with humility can take the worse mistake and turn it into a gift of forgiveness and closure.
- Find the nuggets
Even in our darkest moments, there can be nuggets of goodness waiting to be discovered.
There are many expressions, some clichés now, which illustrate this point:
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
When God closes a door He opens a window.
No matter what happens in our lives, there is a greater good unfolding. Call it faith; call it divine intervention or call it just plain luck, but for every failed circumstance there is something extraordinarily valuable waiting to happen.
- Sharing the mistakes
Being vulnerable and sharing your failures helps others from going down the same path.
Sharing the bruises received while building a career; sharing how to be a better husband, spouse and parent; and sharing my failures through my writing makes me humble and it makes me happy to help others avoid the disappointments I’ve felt.
I think God puts failure on our shoulders so we can lighten the load for others. When we do, we fail with a purpose that’s never a mistake.