The Benefits of Failure

by | Jun 10, 2020 | Leadership

Most great athletes and competitors will say they fear failure more than they enjoy winning. 

I can relate. (Not with the “being a great athlete” part but with fearing failure.) I don’t want to fail and I can see how that fear influences so many decisions I make. However, over time, I am learning failure is not always bad. It can actually be very beneficial and if we manage it correctly, it can serve as a catalyst for accomplishing our goals. 

I have failed many times in my life, but there is one season that would easily make my “Top 5” failures of all time. Let me explain. 

In the fall of 2003, I had just transferred from LaTech University to Oklahoma Wesleyan University where I was offered a basketball scholarship. Here’s the crazy thing. The coach had never seen me play before. He was taking the word of their Dean of Students who I had played many pickup games with. (Remember, this is before smartphones and social media so the coach really couldn’t get “film” on me very easily and plus it’s not D1 ball, so, for whatever reason, he decided to offer me a partial athletic scholarship.)

As you can imagine, I came in with a lot of pressure to prove myself and perform well. Unfortunately, I never reached my basketball potential. I let insecurity and the pressure get to me. Even as I write about this, I am reminded of so many practices and games where I left frustrated and in tears because I just couldn’t put it altogether. 

But if you think I regret anything from those two years of playing (or riding the bench) you would be wrong. Sure, I wish I could’ve performed better and helped my team in a greater capacity. That’s the competitor in me. But as the years have gone by and I have more life experience, I have become so thankful for that season of “failure.” You see, I learned so much about myself during that time and probably developed more maturity than I would’ve if I had been more “successful.” 

If I hadn’t gone through that season, I don’t think I would be where I am today and would certainly not have been prepared to make the most of the opportunities that have come my way since then. 

Have you experienced the blessing of failure? Here’s why failure can be so beneficial if we manage it right…


Failure Refines

Success covers up weaknesses and over time blind spots can creep in. But failure exposes them. Failure is a great teacher if we are willing to listen. If we choose to lean in to failure, persevere through it and learn the lessons it is trying to teach us, we will grow in maturity and be more prepared for the opportunities that await us in the future. 



Failure Reveals 

As we process through failure and usually go back to the proverbial “drawing board” to find out what went wrong and how we can improve, one of the opportunities we have is to reflect upon our motives and priorities

Success is intoxicating. And the more success you have, the easier it is to spend more time in that area. Usually this occurs professionally and we pour our time and energy into our jobs. Unfortunately, our family and friends can get our leftovers. 

However, failure tends to recenter us. It reveals to us the areas that we have been neglecting- whether that is family, friends, health, or rest. Now we can choose to reorient our priorities and get back into a healthier rhythm. 


Failure Predicts

At times failure can be a better predictor of success than achievement. Here’s what I mean. Some people set really low goals and have minimal expectations for themselves. Just because you accomplish those goals, doesn’t mean you are successful. What about the person who dreams big and has the courage to accomplish audacious goals, but only gets 75% there? Who was more successful? I would argue the latter. 

As the saying goes, “If you are not failing, you are not trying.” The key is to fail well. Fail at taking calculated risks. And learn from those failures. Remember, “shoot for the moon and even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” 

As I wrap up these thoughts on failure, I want to be clear: I don’t enjoy failure. Failure is hard and my goal is to “win” and accomplish my goals. But when failure happens (and it will for all of us) we manage it by taking the time to reflect upon it and learn from it. We remind ourselves it’s not permanent and persevere through it. We stop dwelling on our past mistakes and move forward.


Game Plan

Think about the last time you had a “big” failure. Take some time to reflect upon that experience. What did you learn from it and how has that experience prepared you for the future?


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