The winner gets to feel good about themselves and the loser has to find the fortitude to rise to the next day’s challenge.

Extract Value From Failure—Fail Forward To Success

Extract Value From Failure
Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

# 75 on my 99 Life Tips–A List is: Living well involves extracting every positive thing of value from inevitable failures.

It is a mistaken notion to believe that a good life is impossible unless only good things happen in it.

Aside from its improbability—for anyone—as far as evidence suggests, it denies the value of improvement arising directly from the ashes of failure.

Gregg Popovich, Hall of Fame NBA coach for the San Antonio Spurs, famously said of his teams that they were most vulnerable after a win (which they did often under his guidance). He said after a win you think you have nothing to learn and nothing to improve upon.

“The measure of who we are is how we react when something doesn’t go our way.”

~Gregg Popovich

Forgive quotes from a sports figure and not from the literati, but sports is one of those morality plays with lots of variables that pits opponents against one another in a test of comparable skill in which every night someone is undefeated for that day and someone else is a complete loser. 

The winner gets to feel good about themselves and the loser has to find the fortitude to rise to the next day’s challenge. 

The losers have to find something of value, some takeaway, to inspire them to their best effort in the next day’s contest. You know, like you and me when life trips us up. It is how we handle adversity, or how it handles us, that determines the quality of our lives.

Not enough adversity?

I recall an interview I saw with actor Mark Wahlberg (another famous literary figure… wink) in which he discussed his fears for his children. Wahlberg is a celebrity father who loves his kids, well known for his own gritty childhood in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, MA. The interviewer, talking to him about the difficulties he’d overcome as a young teenager on mean streets doing some bad things, asked what he feared most for his own children. 

“That they won’t face enough adversity,” quipped Wahlberg in all sincerity.

He knows the value of tenacity, perseverance, and resilience. He knew you cannot lie down when you get hit. You must get back up and keep moving. Those who have lived overly sheltered, pampered lives don’t.

It is a truism that the severity of every person’s trials is relative. That truth gave rise to the atrocious, but true, phrase, “First World Problems”, as in 

“OMG, There’s a crack in my iPhone’s screen protector! Uggghhh! FML!”

It’s embarrassing. Still, everyone’s problems are existential threats and earth-shattering to them.

Those of us who have faced down real difficulties know how tough real-world problems are, and we’ve learned how tough they’ve made us, right? We have learned how to extract value from failure.

We’ve mined everything possible from the trials, tragedies, and travesties, learned from them, and we’re still standing. Standing and smiling. Smiling and moving forward. We know how to enjoy a good life and live well because we’ve seen the other side and we know how fortunate we are. Gratitude makes everything sweeter and makes living well easy.

Don’t waste your failures!

Fail forward.

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