Tomorrow’s successes are built by today’s failures
In art school, I heard a story about Picasso sitting on a park bench. A woman recognized him and boldly requested that he sketch her portrait. Picasso quickly sketched a simple, single-stroke drawing of the woman, remarkably capturing her essence. The woman asked what she owed him for the drawing, and Picasso replied, “Five thousand dollars.” “What?! How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!” she exclaimed. To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.” Today, Picasso’s works average about $200,000 market value. But it wasn’t his innate talent that made him world-renowned. It was actually all the crumpled up drawings filling his studio wastebaskets that led to his greatness. In other words, he failed a lot before he succeeded.
Fear of failure is one of the top reasons why I, and millions of people like me, hide behind a litany of excuses any time we feel that adrenaline-pumping compulsion deep within. Why is failure so scary? The idea of wasting precious time and resources can halt any already-exhausted, budget-minded individual. Waves of humiliation and shame crash over us when the thought of past failures haunt our memories. Our identities are wrapped up in our carefully crafted reputation rather than the other way around. We work so hard to present our lives in a Pinterest-worthy way, but sometimes that means we live a staged, scripted life.
What if instead you gave yourself the okay to fail? The okay to set out to do something you’re not sure will succeed. Call it walking by faith if you will, but either way, it presents an opportunity to fail. It’s nerve-wracking. It’s courageous. It’s exhilarating. And it comes with many benefits.
Failure defines what we should pick up and put down.
We were each born with a specific purpose. We embody special talents, skills, and experiences that no one else does. Let’s not be ashamed of what we can’t do but proud of what we can. Fish can’t fly and birds can’t swim! Einstein said this, and I paraphrase—If you spend your whole life trying to teach a fish to fly, it will spend its whole life feeling like a failure.
Failure shows us how to be better.
While we are certainly born with innate talents, the time spent developing those talents into skills is what brings success. Like Picasso, if we keep picking up our pencil and trying again, we’ll eventually reach Picasso-level mastery.
Failure builds trust.
Failure makes you relatable to those around you. It makes you similar to them. Their lives aren’t perfect. Their lives are messy. They get tired, hangry, stressed out, and overwhelmed just like you. We all have rubble at our feet, but if others see you rise out of the rubble of failure, they will identify with you. When you give yourself the opportunity to fail, you inspire others to do the same.
Failure combats the perfection paralysis.
So many of us are immobilized by perfectionism. We often opt to do nothing rather than risk messing up. Well, if I can’t be the best, or the most influential, or if I can’t stick with it, why start? Why bother? Why mess up the pages to my life story? The question is … what life story? If you aren’t messing up the pages, you aren’t writing. Perfection is not an option. But I can get up and keep pressing toward my high calling in Christ Jesus. Embrace all of life’s challenges and all of your shortcomings, and don’t be ashamed of yourself. The bottom line is: failure is for us, not against us. The idea that failure is wasted energy, time, and money is false. Time and resources are never wasted on today’s failure—they are invested in tomorrow’s success. So, take a chance. Go for that opportunity. Make failure your teacher and friend. Your history isn’t final until you stop writing your story.
Micah Conger is a member of the Southlake Campus, and she attends with her husband, Adrian, and their son Caden.