In the self-help world failure has become a rite of passage. Here are some book titles: The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success; Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes, and Thinking Big; Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure. You hear all the time how nine out of ten businesses fail, how Edison failed at making the light bulb over 1000 times, or how Hank Aaron struck out 1383 times but only has 755 career home runs. You hear failure builds character. You hear you can learn from your mistakes. The common wisdom is you have to fail a lot so that you can win.
With so many lessons and books on failure the question why do we keep writing books about it? Why does failure persist? Why do we keep making the same mistakes in our relationships, in our business, in our parenting, and in how we govern ourselves? While learning from our failures makes us feel good could this common wisdom be misguided?
We think wisdom comes from our failures. It doesn’t. Wisdom comes from God. Really, what do you learn from your mistakes? You might learn what not to do again, and so you stop (maybe), but how valuable is that? You still don’t know what to do next. You still are trying to figure out the future and what’s best, and that’s a crap shoot many times.
Contrast with wisdom from God. Godly wisdom gives you real ammunition. When God gives you advice you know it will work. And the next time you will know what to do and do it even better.
Failure is not a prerequisite for success (Just think of the Apollo 12 mission where failure was not an option), but a fear of the Lord is. The Psalmist wrote, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” Psalm 11:10 And Proverbs 9:10, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Why waste your time learning from mistakes when you can learn from God?
Plus, you gain success by listening to those who are successful. Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Imagine all the problems you could avoid in your life if you learned from other people’s mistakes and not your own. Imagine all the problems you could solve by listening to other people’s success. When something succeeds, you know what worked- and you can do it again. You might even do it better.
Don’t let failure stop you. Don’t let the risk of losing it all stop you, but don’t overrate it either (too much or too little). Understand that if you fail that it is a lesson in not what to do next time and a reminder to embrace the wisdom of God.