Are there lessons we can learn from failure?
I can still remember sitting in Denver International Airport when I experienced the light bulb moment that I needed to move past a failure that affected me deeply. You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that hits you to the core? Those feelings accompanied me every day up until that moment. My thoughts constantly replayed the “should haves,” “could haves,” and “would haves.” As I waited for my connecting flight to Los Angeles, I passed the time watching random Youtube videos until, by pure accident, I came across J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech. Until that moment I was not entirely familiar with J.K. Rowling. I am not a Harry Potter fan and had no idea who authored the popular series. I decided to watch the video "just because" since I had a couple of hours to spare.
I watched and listened, and she talked, and then she talked about failure, but not only that, she talked about the benefits of failure. At that moment, I really listened. I don't normally hear the words "benefits" and "failure" in the same sentence so she had my attention. Further, I could not see any benefit in my failure experience, but I knew that I needed this message so I played the video again. As I sat up in my seat with my head slightly bent staring at my I-phone screen, the tears started to flow. All the pain that I had attempted to bottle up for weeks flowed from my eyes. The pain of failure cuts deep, and I felt it. For weeks it defined me and caused me to question everything I knew about myself. As J.K. Rowling spoke, she said exactly what I needed to hear:
“You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.”
The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.”
A year later, I can look back on that period in my life and thank God for the lessons. In the following days, I watched the video at least ten times. It reminded me of what I knew deep within but did not fully grasp at the time. My failure did not and would not define me. In fact, none of us are failures. We are human beings who sometimes win and sometimes fail. My Heavenly Father created me with immeasurable worth and nothing would ever change that. I learned a lot about myself during that period. I am resilient, I am a fighter, my worth is unchanging, and I add and bring a lot of value. It also taught me about my relationships. There were people I thought who would have been there but were not, but there were people who rallied around me and who supported and encouraged me, proving themselves true gems in my life. Our mistakes and/or failures can never define us, we are so much more than that. Yet they can teach us valuable lessons, and though painful, remember this “A diamond is a chunk of coal that is made good under pressure.”