Choose Not to Focus on Failure

One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren 

Guess what? Everyone fails from time to time. Failure is not fatal. Failure is not final. Failure is not the end of the world. We can’t afford for mistakes or set-backs to make us feel like failures. Failure, if not kept in proper perspective, can make us feel like giving up.

Here’s a little “Guess Who” game.” Can you guess the name of the person one might think is a failure?


Q: Who performed badly in almost all of his high school courses and flunked his college entrance exams?

A: Albert Einstein (theoretical physicist)


Q: Who struck out 1330 times during his baseball career?

A: Babe Ruth (professional baseball player)


Q: Who failed the sixth grade and lost every public office he ran for, except one?

A: Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of U.K.)


Q: Whose first three automobile companies failed?

A: Henry Ford (industrialist, founder of Ford Motor Company)


Q: Who was barely able to read or write at age ten, was yanked out of school, and taught by a tutor who quit in disgust?

A: Pablo Picasso (painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, poet, playwright)


Q: Who was fired from her television reporting job because she wasn’t “fit to be on screen?”

A: Oprah Winfrey (queen of television talk shows)


Q: Who was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas?”

A: Walt Disney (entrepreneur, animator)


Q: Whose teacher called him a “hopeless dunce?”

A: Beethoven (composer)


Q: Who made a screen test and the evaluator wrote that he “can’t sing, can’t act, slightly bald, can dance a little?”

A: Fred Astaire (famous dancer, singer, actor, choreographer)


Q: Who tried 200 unsuccessful vaccines for polio before finding the one that worked?

A: Jonas Salk (medical researcher, virologist)


Q: After a performance at the Grand Ole Opry, who was told he was better off driving a truck than singing?

A: Elvis Presley (singer, actor)


Q: Who started a lot of businesses which all failed and lost several elections for public office?

A: Abraham Lincoln (president of the United States)


Q: Who was rejected by the California School of Theater, Film, and Television three times?

A: Steven Spielberg (director)


Q: Who was cut from his high school basketball team?

A: Michael Jordan (professional basketball player)


Q: Who graduated 42 in a class of 43?

A: Napoleon Bonaparte (military and political leader)


Q: Who had 10,000 failed experiments before figuring out how to work the light bulb?

A: Thomas Edison (inventor)


Thomas Edison said he didn’t consider those experiments failures; he considered them education. “I know 10,000 things that don’t work.” There are some things that can only be learned by failure.

Yes, failure hurts, but everyone fails at something. Smart people learn from their failures and move on. That’s what makes the difference. We can’t afford to let other people’s opinions of us determine what we will become. After all, it’s God’s opinion of us that really matters and He thinks we’re pretty special. So we can’t let failures become excuses to give up and stop trying. Failures are setbacks. Setbacks are learning experiences.

Failure can actually make us work harder and become more determined to succeed. It can help us refocus our energies or change direction. A little failure in our lives helps us to be sympathetic towards others and not so judgmental. Failure helps us rely on God.

Consider this… God doesn’t just want us to be observers in the game of life. He wants us to get in there and give it our all, do it with all our might. (Ecclesiastes 9:10) God is all about participation and doing our best. When we stumble, God wants us to get up and finish the race.

Success isn’t always winning; failure isn’t always losing. There is no failure unless we decide not to try. It’s as simple as that!


Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Everyone fails, but how we handle failure determines if we will be bitter or better. Determine to learn from your mistakes, not repeat them.

Don’t blame others for your mistakes. Accept responsibility. Make changes. Move on.

It’s better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing at all. Don’t let failure keep you from doing stuff.

When a certain process isn’t working for you then reframe, revise, and refocus. Make evaluations to determine how to proceed. That’s what Edison had to do every time his light bulb experiment didn’t work.

Always remember God is here for you. When we fall down, He can help us get back up. If we don’t have the strength to get up, He will lift us up if we ask Him for help.