Abundant Life

Failure is Not Final

In case you missed it, I posted a series of teachings from the Truth or Tradition website about how to turn failures into success. (You can watch the video series here). These teachings are about changing perspectives and adjusting expectations concerning failures and I wanted to make sure that these important points weren’t missed. All too often, I think people wallow in their misfortunes and submerge themselves in pessimistic attitudes which automatically sets a person up to fail – for if you go into a situation with failure on your mind it’s inevitable failure will be the outcome.

I get tired of it. Yes, shit happens. Yes, it sucks, but it could always be worse. Like having three feet of my large intestine cut out of me this past month. I could choose to sink myself into self pity (why me!!) or concentrate on the fact that my whole digestive system seems to have changed and I’m having to spend countless hours consciously thinking and planning and OMG, how annoying is that?!? I have a life! I don’t have time to think about my poop cycles!! Or how uncomfortable I am pretty much all the time right now or how I have an ugly six-inch scar running down the middle of my abdomen…

But I don’t. Instead, I’m thankful my intestine didn’t explode and spread toxins throughout my body which would have put me in a truly dangerous situation. Or how thankful I am that I have some large intestine left over. (I read about how some people have to have their entire large intestine removed completely and how that causes a lot of complications and discomfort).

Or how I’m thankful it wasn’t even more serious – like a cancerous tumor instead of a simple (?) twist.

The director of hospitality paid me a visit in the hospital. His purpose was to make sure I didn’t need anything and to offer to have a chaplain pay me a visit and comfort me, if I so chose. Instead, I cracked jokes and made him laugh. I upheld my sunny disposition and when he asked me how I could remain so positive considering all that I had had to endure (not just throughout my surgery but over the past five years), I said, “What choice do I have? I prefer to look on the bright side of things.” Shortly before he left me he said, “You’ve actually made me feel better! I was supposed to make you feel better!”

And that blessed me.

It’s HARD to be positive at times, but it’s so much more healthy than sinking into despair. I also firmly believe that maintaining a positive attitude throughout life not only makes life easier, but improves the quality of one’s life, too.

But failing is part of life. It’s going to happen, there’s no getting around it. It’s how we REACT to that failure that is really the true test of our character.

I’ve posted this article in bits and pieces over the past four weeks. But I wanted to make sure that the highlights were not overlooked or discarded because they’re important – they help individuals absorb failure, recover from failure, dust themselves off from failure and adjust their attitude about failure, leaving the door open for future successes.

So pay attention, readers, this is important stuff.

Let’s look at some myths about failing.

First myth:

Failure Is Avoidable—that is a myth. Failure is not avoidable. We all fail. You have got to realize that when you fail, when you trip, or when you stumble, it is not the end, and it is not avoidable.

Second myth:

People Think of Failure as an Event. It is not a single event. It is usually a series of bad decisions. I know many times as I am counseling people, and they tell me of the specific instance where they stumbled, but yet as we talk, and you back that process up, we find a series of thought patterns and processes that led to the whole series of events that culminated into the failure (event) that they want to hold on to. It is not an event; it is a series of bad decisions. Just think of the physical world. Years ago a popular hotel had a walk-way (bridge) that collapsed during a large celebration. When they went back and did a failure analysis on it, it was not any single thing that caused the failure of that bridge. The first aspect was that too many people were on the bridge. The second aspect was that all the people were dancing and swaying to the music. The third aspect was that the contractor had shorted some of the material and bolts, in some way. The fourth aspect was that the engineer had not properly calculated all the length and span and load on the bridge. You see, although the failure was an event, what caused the failure was a series of events and not any single thing. Many times when they do failure analysis of physical events, they find that it is not any one thing but rather a series of bad decisions (bad moves) which resulted in that event. I would bet you that many times this is a similar thing in your life. How about, for example, your health? I receive calls from people asking to be ministered to. Someone may be having heart trouble, but the fact is that they have lived a life where they have eaten the wrong foods or smoked cigarettes or lived under stress, and now they want healing for their heart; however, they have sown into bad health situations. It was a series of events that led up to this heart situation.

Third myth:

Failure is Objective Verses Being Subjective. The majority of times failure is subjective. It is a matter of perspective. That is what we have to do, gain the proper perspective, a healthy perspective. Yes, you may have made a mistake, but you can change your perspective about that single event (defeat) so that you can learn from it and move forward. The fact is that I have made many mistakes, but I always tell myself, “Well, at least now I know what not to do.” This is a great perspective; therefore, it was not a failure. It is not a failure because now I know “that did not work,” and now I know not to do that anymore. I change my perspective on it; it is a great place to be.

Fourth myth:

Failure is an Enemy. We always think of failure as an enemy. We do not want failure to come anywhere near us. I would really like to encourage you to make failure a friend. Not that you want to desire it or to come to you, but the fact is that it is going to come to you. Remember, failure is not avoidable, but when it does come, look at failure as merely feedback. I heard a man a number of years ago say, “I never look at things as failures; I look at it as feedback.” Right? Well, now you know what does not work. You need to tell yourself, “It is not that I am a failure, but that I failed at doing something.” A big difference can be seen between these two.

Fifth myth:

Failure is Irreversible. Many times we get ourselves stuck in a hole (stuck in a pit). We think that there is no way for us to climb out. Let me tell you something. I was charged with 17 felony counts. I plead guilty to two felonies. I sit here today with no criminal record. That is by God’s mercy and grace. At one time, I did not have any idea of how to get out from underneath that. Also, I had lost a civil lawsuit of wrong things that I had done. I was 5.1 million dollars in debt, but again by God’s mercy and grace, I was able to work out a settlement with the people that I owed the money. I was able to pay them back in a huge way. Today, I am able to work in ministry. When I tell you that I have been a failure, I am not making that up. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, but by God’s mercy and grace, failure is reversible! It is a myth to think that failure is irreversible. Don’t get me wrong. Consequences do occur for actions, and what you sow, you will reap. We do have a powerful God, and I know that from the record of Scripture—look at the life of David. I have not murdered anybody. I have never done things like that, but yet he was called a “man after God’s own heart.” Moses murdered someone, yet he was called “the friend of God.” He knew God face to face. Failure is reversible, but it is dependent upon you for changing the trajectory of your life. It is dependent upon you to make up your mind to walk holy and godly. You can do that. You can change. You do not have to live in this failure, defeat, or adversity. The power is within your own life.

Sixth myth:

We Think That Failure is Final. It is not over until it is over. Your life is not over until you stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and he looks you in the face and you hear his testimony of your life. I am looking for the day when I can stand before Jesus Christ, and he says, “Well done brother; come on in buddy, good job.” That is going to be the testimony that I will accept. Until it is over, it is not over. I have made many mistakes, and maybe so have you, but it is not over until it is over. Let us accept the testimony of God and Jesus Christ. Let us change our perspective; let us learn to fail forward.

C + P = E
Circumstance + Perspective = Experience

If you can control your perspective, the way you look at things, the way you relate to those setbacks, the difficulties of life, you’re going to be able to set yourself up for success. Because it’s ATTITUDE that’s the most important thing that determines whether you succeed or not.

So, you failed. Now what? Here are some key things that will help you get over the failure.

Key One: When you attempt anything and you find yourself not succeeding and being defeated, examine your expectations.

What did you really expect? Were you realistic? Did you expect everything to go perfect? If you expect everything to go perfect, and it did not go perfect—well, all of a sudden that is a source for a lot of pain and thinking that a big defeat has occurred for you. Did you expect to succeed on the first try? That is not realistic. Do you know that George Washington lost five out of the first seven battles in the Revolutionary War? What were his expectations? If he had expected that every time he entered into battle that he was going to win or if he expected everything to be perfect or if he expected to succeed on the first try, we would probably still be answering to the king of England. How many mistakes did you expect to make before you succeeded? Did you allow yourself as you set out to make any mistakes? Who is the other great President that comes to mind if I told you to think of two Presidents, George Washington and who else? Most people would say Abraham Lincoln. Do you realize that Abraham Lincoln failed at almost everything that he had attempted until he was finally elected President; and even then, he was faced with a civil war, the only civil war in our nation’s history? He is one of the top Presidents that we think of and remember. The first thing that I would like for you to do is to examine your expectations. Are you realistic in your expectations? Are you having problems in your marriage? Did you expect everything to go perfect? Are you having problems with your children? Well, was it realistic that you would not have some problems? If you adjust your expectations, it will help you go a long way to learning how to fail forward. I am not saying, “drop your vision” or “lower your expectations.” I am saying to become realistic in your expectations.

Key Two: Find new ways of doing your work.

Okay, you have done some things, and it did not work. Brainstorm new approaches, and then try some of them. Think of Thomas Edison for example, two thousand tries to make the incandescent light bulb before he succeeded. Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that 1999 times he failed. That is a man who knew how to brainstorm and try new approaches, so find new ways to do your work. Look at the fact that if it does not work, that is a great place to be. You now know what not to do. I think of it as seeing a big wall of ice in front of me and not knowing where to start. I have no idea of how to climb it, so I just take a running stab at it. With my ice-pick, I just slam it into the face of the ice. Well, guess what? At least now, I have a starting place, and from there, I get to move forward. Everything may not be going up. Maybe I will have to move sideways, maybe occasionally move backwards, but keep looking toward the goal of going up. Brainstorm new approaches and then try them. Find new ways of doing your work.

Key Three: Focus on your strengths.

Maximize your skill and strengths to maximize your efforts. A good friend of mine, Dave DeMars, said years ago that his father or grandfather said to him, “If it does not fit, do not get a bigger hammer.” You see, a lot of time that is what we do. We try something, and it does not work. What do we then do? We get a bigger hammer, and we just keep pounding away at it. You need to learn your strengths. Years ago I remember someone came to me in fellowship and said, “Dan, I believe that I am called as a teacher. I would really like to teach.” I said, “That is great. That is a beautiful desire and a wonderful thing. Why don’t you teach next week at fellowship?” They taught a couple of times. They finally came back to me one day and said, “You know, I have taught a few times, and I am just not getting that my ministry is teaching.” That is a wonderful place to be. How would you have known if you had not tried? You know what you know now? You know that you are not called as a teacher. In the same way, how do you know if you are a prophet? You start to prophecy. You start to speak. You get bold and walk out. How would you know if you are an evangelist? You try to go out and evangelize and start speaking. Maximize your skills, but in order to maximize your skills, you have to learn what those skills are. A number of years ago, John Schoenheit and others had the inspiration for our Teens & Twenties Camp. John and I had lots of conversations about this. John’s focus was on study skills and developing the working of lexicons, concordances, and Greek and Hebrew. One time I was talking to John, and I was just struggling with this, “John, I am not getting this. I do not understand it. All the kids that I know do not seem turned on by the intricacies of the Word of God the way that you are.” He looked at me and said, “Yeah Dan, but you know what. I realize that I have to run a thousand kids through in order to find a few that really want to research the depth of God’s Word the way that I do.” You see, that is a man who understands the principal of failing forward. He does not look at it as 999 kids that do not get that spark like he does. He is looking for that one diamond in the rough. That is failing forward. Learn to maximize your skills and your strengths, and you will maximize your effort. Focus on your strengths.

Key Four: Vow to bounce back.

No matter how many times you may fall; pick yourself back up. It does not hurt to pick yourself back up. We just get defeated. We get tired. We want to give up, but it is what you do after you get back up that really counts. You know that it is not a matter of try, try, try, and try again. It is a matter of try, learn, adjust, and then try again. Is not there a definition that “insanity is essentially doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results”? You have to find new ways to do your work. Focus on your strengths and vow to get back.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” Go out and make mistakes. That is honorable because then at least you are trying; you are moving. You have to get yourself moving. It does not matter how long you have been inactive. It does not matter how long that you have been sitting without movement. The only way to break that cycle is to face the fear and take action.

YOU can take control of your attitude toward failure – your attitude is a CHOICE. Your attitude is what is going to determine whether you succeed or fail.

There are many ways to be a winner, but there is only way to fail and that’s if you don’t get back up when life comes at you.