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What is Failure?

Updated: Apr 27, 2018

I like to share my goals with others. I find it helps solidify my thinking and adds critical momentum to its attainment. Recently I outlined my next audacious goal to a friend. After experiencing my energy, commitment, and passion; he looked back at me and asked "aren't you afraid of failure?"

I looked back at him and said, "it all depends on how you define failure." I have been in business long enough to be intimately familiar with the Mike Tyson quote "Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth". I have suffered some spectacular professional and personal "failures". But these "tests" form the basis of my "testimony" and as a result, I don't recognize them as failures.

Failure defined as a "lack of success in stated goals" is dangerous and stupid. Focusing on short-term goals often locks one into a given course of action leaving little room for God. As we run from failure it is easy to miss God's gentle course corrections.

To that end, I offer a definition that applies to every professions, social class, race and creed. It is a definition that is simple to remember while its complexity will require a lifetime to master. The definition is as follows:

"Death before achieving one's full potential"

Failure can only be truly understood in the context of one's potential. Operating in comfort, well below one's potential, is where most people will spend their lives. This "failure" leads to a soul sucking feelings of melancholy, idle time, and self destructive tendencies. "Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece." - Proverbs 16:27

Consequently, dreaming "small" and accepting the status quo, is the definition of "failure". People who say, "Nothing is perfect" have given up on perfection. Ironically, striving for perfection in your marriage, relationships, and your professional life and "failing" to achieve that perfection is actually a lot closer to the definition of success than never even trying. Accepting things "as is" is a complete failure to lead the kingdom God has entrusted to each of us.

So in response to my friend, I say "No, I am not afraid of failing. I am terrified of never trying."

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