Often times as humans, we tend to view success (or winning) on the opposite side of failure (or defeat). These are opposites and as we look into the world of sports and into life in general, we see winners and losers.
However winning and losing are not opposites. They are actually both on the same side of action vs. inaction. In order to win or lose, succeed or fail, we must have taken action; we must have stepped forward towards some goal.
However, what scares many people is where winning is.
Where does winning most often happen? Most often, winning only comes after failure, loss, and/or defeat.
The Failure That Ended in Triumph
When I was in high school, I was part of the band. One of the things we did regularly as a band was enter competitions. Sometimes these were competitions against other bands; other times, these were competitions that were simply graded by a panel of judges.
One competition, where we had a complex and challenging set of music lined up, the band as a whole was especially nervous. As we played through each piece, we intently focused on getting the notes and timing right . . . until a few pieces in, when several instruments had a long rest/break. (I don’t remember how long but I’ll guess it was around 12 measures or so.)
What happened next changed everything. One section of instruments lost track of their count and came in one measure early, confusing everyone including the conductor, and spiraling the performance downward in a quick chain reaction that resulted in the conductor stopping the piece and then restarting us all together.
As a band, this was the strike of defeat. From that point forward, it didn’t matter if we missed our notes, or stumbled through the tricky spots; things could not get any worse . . . until the very end — when we received the grade for our performance.
Everyone was expecting a bronze (or no medal at all), but everyone was shocked. We actually received a gold for our performance!!!
How is this possible? Especially after having to stop in the middle of a piece because we lost our place?
Winning Past Failure
One thing that stands out to me in this experience was listening to the recording as a band after this competition. We were recorded as we played, and the next practice, we listened to our performance in its entirety — including our big mess up.
However, what stood out to everyone was what changed. Before giving up, we were playing very nervously and rigidly and we all could hear it in how we played. After giving up, we played emotionally and free. Some might say we lost ourselves in the music, and we played simply to finish the race even though we had given up on winning. From that point forward, we viewed the performance as another practice because that is what it was.
After accepting failure, there was no more stress, and the lack of stress resulted in a completely different sound from the band. After failing, while still being determined to finish, we actually achieved success.
Are You Failing or Succeeding?
For most of us, we want to never fail and always succeed in everything we set out to do, but life doesn’t work this way. Success is often found after failure on the same road in life. We must experience failure to learn the lessons that lead to success. There may be some areas we can shortcut around, but we will never be able to shortcut past all failure — there is just too much value in it.
Do we ever really fail?
I think that we can really fail, but true failure is more a moral issue than a mistake issue. Most of the mistakes that we make are actually teaching lessons in disguise and if we treat them as such, we can welcome failure because it is not really failure at all.
In the comments area below, would you share some lessons that you learned from “failures” in your past? Together we can achieve great things through all of our shared knowledge and experience!