Failure is Essential

February 8, 2016 — Leave A Comment


“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” ~ Winston Churchill

I came across an interesting question this morning in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book BIG MAGIC:

What would you do even if you knew you might very well fail?

Upon reading this, I immediately breathed a sigh, as if laying down a burden I didn’t realize I carried. This question speaks to the very soul of my life, and gives it permission to be there.

Failure is a possible outcome of even the noblest of quests. And if it does fail, that fact makes the quest itself no less noble or worthy of pursuit. It’s even ridiculous to say “if” because every noble quest, even those that end in victory, is pock-marked with failures all along its path.

The one who wins every fight up the mountain has chosen too small a dream. Failure in any worthy endeavor is to be expected. In fact, I believe it’s essential. How else will the hero learn and grow and become more than he was at the beginning?

We forget that any noble quest is as much about the quester as it is about the goal. We aren’t just striving to do something good. We are striving to become something good…though we might not consciously realize it at first. Whatever the ambition, it’s also our smaller self we long to transcend. We want to become something more than we have been up to now ~ more brave, more resilient, more loving, more wise. More of our True Self ~ that compelling vision God seeds in every heart of who he created you to become.

So in pursuit of our Big Dream we invite Failure as well, whether we acknowledge it or not, simply because there’s no other way to get there. There’s no other way but through repeated failure to become who we must become to win the quest.

The sooner we realize that failure is essential, the more at ease we will be with our own human failings, and the failings of others, and the more gracious we will be when we fall short of our desires. But we will also be all the more hopeful, because we’ll understand what’s happening to us:

For the teachable, failure is a means, not an end.

Michael Warden

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