I bought my wife a gift. It didn’t go so well. Here are a few things I learned in the process.
Much of what we aspire to requires courage. Recently I realized that you can not grow in courage if you don’t grow in failure. To the degree you learn to be o.k. with failure, you will grow in courage and creativity. Courage and creativity go hand in hand.
Oh what a letdown.
I was let down into the lonely pit of discouragement.
The hand cuffs of failure tightened on my wrists.
My wife’s birthday was coming up and I was scrambling for gift ideas.
Gift ideas are often like the scissors you see around the house every day, but as soon as you need them you can’t find them to save your life.
Among other items on her wish list there were two items I decided to pursue.
(1.) A camping trip to the Redwoods, and
(2.) A certain kind of sandals she wanted.
I browsed through some shoe stores at the mall, and eventually picked some I though she would like.
I won’t go into the details, but I was apparently ignorant of some very important preferences in women’s shoes when it comes to the height of heels.
Cutting to the chase, she was not happy with the sandals. And she was quite frank about it.
My mind was a little paralyzed for a few seconds except for some rogue thoughts ranting about what a loser I am.
That was compounded with the fact that our camping trip was at risk of being unsuccessful due to some cold weather.
After the sandal scandal, the last thing I wanted was our camping trip to resemble a debuting “rock star” boldly stage diving, but realizing no one was there to catch her when it was too late.
“That is the last time I’ll ever try buying you sandals.” Was what I was thinking.
As that thought began to sink in I was reminded of a much more epic failure I experienced a few years ago.
Back then, it was the same thought. The same adamant vow to “never try that again!”
I realized that in making that kind of vow, I disqualified myself from being courageous because I chose to never enter that battle again.
Sometimes you need to mentally just shut up.
What you say in your thought life can be just as damaging to yourself as if you said it out loud.
I guess I made a choice in that millisecond of history.
I chose to not have an opinion about what just happened, but just move on and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I’ll try to summarize some of the conclusions I made.
1. Don’t make vows. Vows put you in a cage. A cage you might not like so much later on in life. Vows are dangerous. Statistics show that many people who grow up with alcoholic parents often make vows to never be like their parents. But most of them end up like their parents. Making a vow is like saying “I’m taking this into my own hands.” It removes God and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives from the picture.
2. Acknowledge it, deal with it fast and move on. Imagine you’re walking through the woods and you hear the sound of a wild boar snorting and charging through the brush. “It’s coming right at me!” You think. Then you realize it was just your friend in the bushes trying to scare you. This is how SWAT teams and special forces operatives are taught to deal with fear: acknowledge the fear (don’t pretend you’re not afraid), process it, and then move on and do what you need to do. Then it’s just a matter of working on getting that time down to where it’s literally split seconds. Just acknowledging mentally what you are experiencing, but making the decision to keep moving is simple, but it works.
3. Watch your hope level. Choosing to have hope is the only way to achieve the next victory that washes the slate clean and gives you a fresh boost of courage, and feeling of dignity. If I gave up on taking risk when I failed with the sandals, then I probably would have canceled the camping trip, afraid of another failure. The camping trip turned out great! The cold wasn’t as bad as we thought, and our family had a great time. Steve Backlund says “My hopelessness about a problem is a bigger problem than the problem. Your hope level will determine your influence level.” Nobody wants to follow someone who doesn’t have any hope.
4. Be o.k. with failure. This is the hardest one for me. But I know the more I learn to fail, the more I learn to risk and be courageous and creative.
If you don’t learn to fail, then you’re sure to fail.
What are some things that have helped you deal with failure?
Feel free to comment below.
Redwoods photo courtesy of Dustin Blakey on Flickr.