The Value of Failure

I enjoy golf, tennis, racquetball and MMA. But when I want to relax, cooking is my passion of choice. I love to try new flavors, new spices and the new coffees that go with them. I love to make things that I have never made before and to create my own culinary dishes. Along with any passion, though, comes the need for increased skill. To gain the skills I want without going to culinary school, I choose a challenging item and I make it over and over until I master it. Let me give you a couple examples.

For years I could not make a decent piecrust. As a matter of fact, I tried and failed so many times that I finally walked away from it. For seven years, I was so disgusted that I didn’t try to make a pie. Then I decided that I wouldn’t let it whip me. I spent three months just working on piecrust. I found someone who knew what they were doing and they showed me their secrets. After I learned the keys to a good piecrust, I’ve seldom made a bad one since.

When I decided to conquer fudge, I did the same thing. You should have seen the number of batches I threw away. My wife wondered what I was thinking because after I would make a batch of fudge and after it cooled, I took the first taste. As soon as it was on my tongue, I immediately knew its fate. I threw better than 30 batches of fudge away before I started to get a 50% success rate. The fudge that I was working toward was the kind that was so smooth and creamy that it would feel like silk on your tongue-not like the gritty sand paper fudge you get from Aunt Wilma at Christmas time. To make good cooked fudge takes skill and after about three months of failing batch after batch, I got to the point where I felt comfortable saying I had mastered the art of making fudge.

When I look at my fudge and piecrust skills, I’m proud of my accomplishments. I was challenged and I didn’t quit until I reached the level of mastery I chose to call success. What makes these victories so tasty isn’t because I got to the point I was striving for but because I got to the point by struggling to get there. When I make a good crust or a good batch of fudge, I remember all the failures it took to reach this point. I remember all the bad batches I threw away to finally reach my goal. I remember the frustration I experienced repeatedly before reaching my goal. Had I made the perfect pie the first time or the perfect batch of fudge out of the chute, I would never value these skills to the degree I now do.

What makes success so sweet is the road that it takes to get there. People who are given success without failure only get lazy, bored and soft. These are they who struggle with depression and anxiety. Failure is not bad if it is a controlled failure and a controlled failure is one that is not necessarily enjoyed but is at least embraced and then used to reformulate a plan to try again. Success without failure is a gift, and the depth of our love and appreciation for any one or any thing grows more because of our long-term shared failures than because of our simple shared successes.

Let me remind you what Jesus says in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Read it for yourself to get the full effect, but, when asked about the depth of failure, He explains that whoever will see and embrace their deep failure can experience a greater understanding and joy of God’s bottomless love. He goes on to say that when we neglect and ignore our deep failures, we resign ourselves to experience a very faint shadow of kindness instead. Embrace the aroma of your life’s failures and let them enhance the flavor of your successes because a truly tantalizing masterpiece cannot have one without the other.

Do you know someone that could benefit from this posting? Why not send it to them? Bryan Hurlbut is the author of Making It Count: Putting meaning back in business and relationships. This and other topics can be found in the book Making It Count: Putting meaning back in business and relationships.


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