Saturday, 14 July 2012
While @SaintVI and I were on vacation visiting in-laws, we worshiped with her sister, Teri, at St. Paul United Methodist Church. The associate pastor was filling in and gave a nice sermon on "The Sacrament of Failure."
I won't recount the sermon. Instead, I want to reinforce the point: we learn from failure, failure is an essential part of our lives, and there is something to be said for failure being a sacrament: a Christian rite that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and that is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of a spiritual reality.
I am often inspired by quotes from wise people. Here are a few regarding "failure."
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.
I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying.
In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.
... and many others.
And so it is with this in mind that I share my own most recent "failure."
Most of you are aware that I've been pursuing a challenging course at work (the most challenging the nuclear industry has to offer) in order to receive my Senior Reactor Operator Certification in order to teach control room operators. I've been at it for almost two years. Most of the class has run an average score of about 93%. Mine has been about 87%, but slipped into the low 80s as I came to the final weeks. My final exam required that I score 70% or better on the last 25 questions of the 5 hour, 100 question exam, and 80% overall. I studied like the dickens (and have been throughout, to the point of affecting my physical health). In the end, I scored 80% on the last 25 questions, but 79% overall.
I failed by 1 point. One question. One incorrect answer too many.
Needless to say, I was disappointed to return home that Friday night. In my mind, I would pass the exam with around an 88% and start a 2 week vacation. Instead, I stewed over my shortcoming throughout the weekend, but knew that an exam review of the questions might toss a bad one and I'd pass.
Which is what happened. Another student who failed (second time for him to take the whole course) and I contested a couple of the high-failure rate questions, and they were tossed.
It's not a pretty way to end the race, but it is a finish. Also, I'll now be teaching those who are much more familiar with the plant than am I. This requires a different sort of teaching skill, which I do possess, but such a marginal score does create a credibility issue that I will now need to overcome - another obstacle.
And such is life. One obstacle overcome, another to battle.
Christ knew this. Most people know this. Successful people embrace this.
Failure is an immersion into the fire of our shortcomings. Success is coming out of that fire tempered. Like baptism, we are renewed so that we might overcome the next obstacle, and in so doing we are able to achieve something greater.
I close by encouraging and exhorting you to face a mirror, look yourself in the eye and say "I failed at ________ ."
Think of it as a baptism of fire and truth.
Then, when you've confessed it all to yourself (and your God, if you are a person of faith), acknowledge that failing at something does not a failure make.
You are strong. You are intelligent. You are worthy. You are beautiful. You are loved.
"Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it."