The Fun of Failure

Failure is nature’s way of telling us “hey, don’t try it that way, again.” It is an inevitable part of life. Some failures are funny, and some are more serious. When we fail, we learn from that experience and gain knowledge. Some failures prevent us from making future mistakes.

For example, when I was in kindergarten, I laid my arm on a hot pizza pan and burned myself. To this day, I have yet to repeat that experience and usually recall the pain I encountered years ago as a reminder not to be careless around hot metals.

It’s not difficult to fail, but it is difficult to admit our shortcomings to others, and even to ourselves.

If failure usually provides good feedback and increases our knowledge, why are we so keen to avoid talking about it? Why do we naturally stray away from admitting we have failed at something and instead try to  cover it up? I believe it comes down to the fear of appearing weak or unworthy. It’s not difficult to fail, but it is difficult to admit our shortcomings to others, and even to ourselves.

2 Corinthians 12:10 is a great verse about failure. It says, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Failures let us realize that we are not as great as we might think ourselves to be. It keeps us humble. One minute you can feel like you’re king of the world, and the next minute, you accidentally demolish the wrong house.

Failures are great at teaching lessons, although they can be rather harsh at times. The Challenger explosion was a very public and graphic failure that taught us a lot about safety measures and how to prevent future catastrophes. The Hindenburg disastertaught us not to use really combustible gas to float people in the sky.

Suppose we never experienced failure. Ever. How might we change? For starters, everyone would think they are right all the time, since they have never failed a debate or conversation. There would be chaos due to the difference in ideas and the lack of failure to show what ideas work and which ones do not. On the plus side, there would be plenty of entertaining videos of people trying out their “good ideas.”

When I think of failures, I am reminded of the movie Meet the Robinsons. The protagonist is ayoung boy named Lewis, who wants to be an inventor. However, his inventions almost never work. When a bizarre set of circumstances takes him to the future, he meets his future self. There, he is told that he creates a lot of the technologies that the future uses. He asks how this is possible, since all his inventions end in miserable failure. Lewis is told by his future self that he got to where he is when he learned to “keep moving forward.” Like the old adage says, “you can’t see what’s in front of you if you’re always looking what’s behind you.”

In other words, it’s fine to fail, but it is unhealthy to linger on failure and have those determine who you are. Learn from your mistakes, learn from others’ mistakes, and strive to make yourself a better person by extension. I hate failing as much as the next guy, but if I stay in the mentality of learning from my mistakes, failures tend to go from destructive to constructive.