mistakes and failures

I remember it like it was yesterday. I’d been taking piano lessons for several years, working out of books by the name of “Technik.” So when the announcer read to me my third word in my second-grade spelling bee, “technique,” I thought back to my piano book and proudly exclaimed, “T-E-C-H-N-I-K, technique!”

“I’m sorry, but that is incorrect.”

I was mortified. My small second-grade heart and my even smaller second-grade ego were crushed. I cried, like any self-respecting spelling bee laughing stock would.

Fifteen years later I was a journalism school graduate with a well-developed vocabulary and a confidence in my ability to spell. Part of that success I attribute to that horrifying day in the Glendale Elementary cafeteria.

Failures are not always as they seem.

Now, most of you may not be able to relate to my example, as I don’t know many people who truly care about spelling and grammar as much as I do. But consider this: that bad-boy boyfriend you had in high school taught you to seek out men who respect women and guess what, you married one!

Or how about this: that time you blew out the transmission in your late-80’s sports car showing off for your friends and then had to ride the bus to work for two months taught you the value of car maintenance, and now you have a brand new Nissan!

At the time the mistake is made, the relationship is ended, the worst decision has been made, you’re likely to be frustrated and sad, which is normal. But over time you get over those feelings and move forward. And it’s in that moving forward that we realize we’re better off for having made that mistake in the first place.

You learn more through trial and error than by always following the rules.

I challenge you to think back on a hard time in your life that you brought upon yourself. Were you lonely because you sabotaged your relationship? Were you poor because you bought a few too many things with your tax return instead of paying your bills? Were you unemployed because you stole from work and got fired?

These are all horrible things. But I bet anyone who has faced any of these problems has learned from them. What did you learn from your mistakes?

Realizing you’ve made a mistake is half the battle. The rest of the struggle comes in righting the wrong. How will you move forward and make things right? Will a simple apology do or will you have to completely change your life around and sober up from the toxic behavior?

The very act of admitting you need to make a change in your life because of a failure effectively turns that failure into an opportunity. And we, as civilized people, are innately thankful for opportunities.

Take a breath, think about what went wrong and how you can avoid doing the same thing in the future, and be thankful you were able to learn a lesson from your experiences.

Next time you find yourself crying on the couch or embarrassed beyond belief, just remember those feelings will pass. And before you know it, you’ll be able to begin working toward making things right and making yourself a better person.

And that, my friend, is a beautiful thing.