I don’t know about you but I’m not really fond of failure. I’ve had plenty of experience with failure and, though it can teach me things I need to learn, it’s still pretty low on my list of things I’d like to do. So, over the years I’ve noticed when I’m likely to fail and I’ve tried to structure my life so I can avoid it as much as possible.
Now, it’s not possible to completely avoid failure. In fact, it’s probably not even desirable to completely avoid failure because we can learn so much from it. But I also think it’s foolish if we only look to our own failures for learning.
Doesn’t it seem smarter to learn from the failures of others when we can?
Of course it does! So I’m going to share what I’ve learned from years of failure, hoping it will help you get further faster.
So many failures
While I’m likely not the most accomplished failure of all time, I’ve had my share of experience in the area. In fact, in my nearly forty years on the earth I’ve failed in more ways than I’d like to count (and, no, I’m not going to share them all here).
I’ve failed in relationships, at work, and with friends. I’ve failed to achieve goals. I’ve failed myself. I’ve failed God. But all of my biggest failures seem to have the same warning signs. Signs that are so consistent I’m starting to look for them as indicators – and you can use them too.
They’re not always clear indicators of immediate failure. They’re more like road signs telling me I’m headed into dangerous territory – read The Principle of the Path (affiliate link) for more about that.
Signs failure is coming
- The “Invincibility” Syndrome
I don’t remember where I first heard this one any more, but what I call the invincibility syndrome is nothing but the splendid blend of pride and ignorance. The attitude that I’m different. That even though everybody else fails, I’m immune to failure and even if I follow in the footsteps of other failures, I will come out OK. Few things could be further from the truth.
- Clouded Vision
The Bible says that, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.” (Proverbs 29:18, NIV). I find that if I don’t have a clear vision of what I am (or my organization is) trying to accomplish, it’s really easy to get sidetracked and fail simply because I forget (or don’t know) what is important.
- Running Blind
This is different from having clouded vision. This is all about running (or working) so fast and pushing so hard that I forget to open my eyes to see where I am and compare it to where I think I’m going. It’s about having so little margin in my life that I don’t take time to reflect to see if what I’m doing is consistent with who I want to be and where I want to go.
- Ignoring Wise Counsel
OK. When I do this, I’m just dumb. God has surrounded me with more wise counselors than I can count. From my parents to my friends to my coworkers and church family, I have wisdom coming out my ears if I’ll just listen to it. But sometimes I don’t – to my detriment.
- Phoning it In
This one should go without saying, but any time I don’t give my best effort I fail – if only failing to give my best effort. If my goal is growth and progress and glorifying God with my whole life, there’s just no excuse for phoning it in. Ever. And if I do, I can bet that failure is just around the corner.
I think it’s safe to assume you don’t want to fail. I don’t want to fail. So, then, part of the key is to define your “leading indicators” of failure and then figure out what to do if one of them is pinging off the chart.
For me, I try to be clear about what I’m doing and why. I kill my pride by asking for advice and wise counsel. I try to build a little margin into my life for reflection (I often get up at 5:15 AM to read and reflect – and I’m not a morning person). And I remind myself that I can’t “phone it in” and say that I’m honoring God.
How about you?
How do you recognize that failure is just around the corner?