The only way to avoid failure is never try anything. If we try, enough times, we will ultimately fail. One derelict sitting on a park bench said to another derelict, “No, I do not consider myself a failure; I never did anything to fail at!”
Failure is not bad. My friend Kyle Rote, Jr. says, “There are many ways to be a winner, but there is only one way to be a loser and that is to fail and not look beyond the failure.” The question is what do we do with our failures.
Last year the University of Connecticut Huskies won the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. They were a huge success. This year they have had to deal with some failures. One of the biggest failures was when the Huskies lost to Yale and scored only 44 points. That was a low point for Huskies basketball.
The next game out was against Coppin State. The UConn center, Amida Brimah, went from that loss to do something that no other basketball player has ever done in Division I history. He sank all 13 of his field goal attempts, making him the first player in Division I history to score at least 40 points and go at least 13 for 13 from the floor in one game. He went from a tough defeat to doing something nobody else had ever done before!
Charles Kettering, the father of numerous automotive and medical advances once said, “When you’re inventing, if you flunk 999 times and succeed once – you’re a success.” He understood that failure doesn’t have to be fatal. He knew that failing doesn’t make a person a failure. It depends on how you look at it.
I remember reading about one of the great battles in our military history at Iwo Jima. We were locked in a deadly combat on a ridge. Later we were victorious and that battle became history. Newsmen reported on it. One soldier interviewed said, “We were forced off the ridge five times – but we came back six.” That’s the way to succeed. Come back one more time. It is not what happened in the last game or the last battle, but what we are doing in the present challenge.
Polio was once a dreaded disease. Jonas Salk developed 200 unsuccessful vaccines for polio before he finally discovered the one that worked. He was asked, “How does it feel to fail 200 times trying to invent a vaccine for polio?” Jonas Salk replied, “I never failed 200 times at anything in my life. My family taught me never to use that word. I simply discovered 200 ways how not to make a vaccine for polio.”
History is full of people who discovered a lot of things that didn’t work before they became successful. R. H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York started showing profits. The English novelist John Creasy got 753 rejection slips before he started publishing books, and he published 564 times. Thomas Edison found that many substances as a filament for a light bulb didn’t work – but he never quit. He never considered himself a failure. He finally found the perfect filament.
Jesus has a great record of taking people who have failed in life and restoring them to a productive lifestyle. Jesus’ disciples had failed at a lot of things in life – but they weren’t failures. Following Jesus they became a success. Failure is never fatal or final unless you choose it to be. Let God help you make failure a backdoor to success.
Fatal failure should be an oxymoron!