I started a business selling real estate and failed. I started learning how to play the trumpet and failed at that too. I tried to be a rapper and failed as well. I have failed at various things in my life. Failing left me in a pit which I couldn’t see my way out of until a paradigm shift occurred.
A paradigm shift is a change in the pattern of thinking. Most people would call it an “aha” moment. It’s when the pieces come together and you see what was unclear, with crystal clarity. When I failed at real estate, it wasn’t for lack of effort and passion. I took a class for it, signed some contracts which I did my best to convert into sales, I did marketing which included a newsletter, and even performed the daring marketing strategy of placing “for sale” signs near stop signs and traffic lights to grab driver and pedestrian attention alike.
My failure became a turning point when I decided to read and learn about failure. One book in particular that had a profound impact on me during this paradigm shift was Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones by Dr. John Maxwell, the top leadership expert. The book gave me the chunks of wisdom I needed to emerge from that pit of failure. He explained how positive benefits can come from negative experiences. You see, I had defined my failure in real estate as failure on me as a person. Failure was quenching my faith. It was like a gut wrenching blow that stopped me dead in my tracks. I was reluctant to try anything else and was okay with settling for what was safe. That label of failure I put on myself became contagious in other areas. For men especially, when we fail in one area we tend to see ourselves as a failure in every area. This was true for me as I saw myself as a failure in marriage too. I had just been married a few months before I started the business. When my wife came up with a great idea to benefit the home, my first instinct was to fight it because it became another sign that I was such a failure that I couldn’t even come up with a good idea even though I was the “head of the house.” It was harsh. I had become judge, jury, and prison warden over my life. I had sentenced myself to life in the prison of failure. If I remained in that prison, my fear of failure would have kept me from discovering writing and teaching, which have become my life’s passion.
The water shed moment for me came as I learned through prayer, reading, and application that success often passes through the valley of failure if it is to be sustainable. Failure makes us tougher after we recover from it. It’s what lays the groundwork for success in life. Each failure acts a rung on a ladder as we use failure to learn and grow. The failure that could have made me a bitter had the potential to make me a better person, depending on how I used it. The choice is mine and yours. My failure in real estate taught me the value of listening to people, empathizing, as well as how to communicate. At the time I didn’t know I would need this in the ministry. I was learning skills for future use during failure. Failure humbled me as I developed a deeper desire to be more helpful to others. I learned that the best reason to go into business is to solve a problem not just to make a profit. It made me a better and more supportive husband to my wife. It was during the downtime when the business wasn’t working that I started writing as well as teaching. My creativity also peaked during this time of failure as I began to develop new ideas. In a nutshell, failure taught me valuable life lessons which a classroom education couldn’t.
I have learned how to embrace failure as a friend and not view it as an enemy. Failure has been a teacher in my life over and over again and the application of the lessons have paid dividends in my life. I am a better person not just because of success but equally because of failure. Failure and success are not contradictory, they are complimentary. The Bible states, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). It’s the successes and the failures; the highs and the lows; the good, the bad, and the unmentionable. They all work together like ingredients in a blender. Failure will also kick out the highly addictive drugs of pride and arrogance, and mold us into becoming beneficial, not detrimental to our surroundings.
If you are dealing with failure, don’t label yourself a failure. You can recover from failure, and instead of it mastering you, you can learn how to master it. When we learn how to fail forward instead of backward, any failure becomes the breeding ground for a successful outcome. Fail early, fail often and learn from failure because failure is never final or fatal. It’s simply a stepping stone to your next success.
Keep on Keeping on!
Waiyaki M. Waiyaki
Discover Your Treasure
“Live by Design, not by Default”