Failure Isn’t Final

Golden Rule #6: Give Yourself Permission to Fail…And Try Again.

Copper Caught 3 1:2 months

Failure. It just feels so…final. Especially when we’re attempting something that matters, even if it only really matters to us. And first attempts are such fragile things anyway, aren’t they? You don’t really have a good sense of what you’re doing, or what to expect, or what the possible outcomes might be. It’s like making a complicated recipe for the first time. I learned a long time ago, don’t attempt a new recipe when it matters. You’re just setting yourself up for failure. Give yourself a chance to learn what to expect along the way.

If that’s true in the kitchen, how much more true is it in life? Your first attempt probably won’t look anything like later ones. There is a certain confidence that comes with repeated attempts. You’re either going to master something, or you’re not, but if you don’t, it shouldn’t be because you didn’t try.

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, and failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Think about people you know who have failed — and this, I can assure you, is everyone. How interesting would it be to hear stories and experiences from someone who had never failed, not ever? We are not defined by our failures, but we are certainly refined by them, and by what happens next. Our failures don’t make us. But they make us real. They make us authentic. They make our story uniquely our own.

I spent years in jobs that ran parallel to the job I dreamed of having. My whole life I dreamed of being a writer, a real writer, getting paid to write. Along the way, I worked as a legal secretary for more than five years, and as a customer service representative for about the same amount of time. Both those fields were fine fields with plenty of work and they were decent fits for my skills and experience. I could have continued in either position indefinitely. But they didn’t nudge me forward in ways that made me stretch, and grow, and learn, and yes, fail along the way. I knew I was made for different, and more, and better. (And if my colleagues from those past lives are reading this, I’m sorry, because these particular private things I wrestled with never were about you, so please don’t be offended.)

Failure is just another part of the journey. No more, no less. It’s true in my life, and in Copper’s as well. I’ve been through countless classes with him, and the learning curve is very apparent. There have been lots of times when I’ve asked Copper to do something, and waited, and corrected him, and tried again, and sometimes even when he knows what I want him to do, he still can’t get it quite right. But this dog, he is persistent. He is motivated. He wants to master whatever it is he’s being asked to do. I love that in him. His gaze is unwavering, his ears are up, and his whole body language says, I’m listening! Let me figure this out and I’ll get it done! He doesn’t beat himself up over failures. He just keeps trying until he gets it.

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