FAILURE: A GREAT--TEACHER? Brothers, it is all right to fail at something. It DOES happen to the best of men. In short: should you fail--you are NOT a failure. You may FEEL like a failure, especially after you have given it your all. In truth, one can give their all for a cause, a relationship, marriage, education or a job and still come up on the short end of the proverbial stick. In our modern era, I have noticed something. There is a drought of material that deals with failure. We have an overabundance of material on success, to the point that many a bookstore shelf is crammed with advice from those who have achieved. However, if you go to your public library and pick a volume off of the shelf of someone whom you admire from history, you will be amazed at how many times the giants FAILED time, after time, after time. This is going to be one of those columns that you may need at a later date, or, could need right now. We’re going to examine the subject in detail and focus on what NOT to do should you come up short in your quest for something better. Let me state from the outset that this is a column written specifically for MEN. Men and women handle failure differently. While there are a host of resources available for women who suffer failure in their lives, the same cannot be said for the brotherhood. Some of us don’t want to admit that a dream has died right before our eyes. That’s where TRUE male friends and male family members are needed to help us past this bump in the road--and into the daylight so that we may try, laugh, and love again. SOME REASONS FOR FAILURE: Let’s begin with some basic reasons that failure may happen in a person’s life. 1. TIMING: This one has to go at the top of the list. You could be ready for that job, or ready to propose marriage to your sweetheart. However, your timing may be off for any one of a variety of reasons. Please, do not brood or sulk too long when something for which you have saved, craved, and sweated for does NOT come to fruition. It just may not be YOUR time, at THAT time. 2. PREPARATION: Many of us like to ‘think’ that we have put in the necessary book work, study, and planning for a venture to make it off the ground, only to find out after the doors have closed on our dream that we did not take some little items into consideration when mapping out our strategy for achievement. 3. ADVICE: Oh, brothers--this one is going to be particularly painful to examine, but the biblical admonition is clear. If one does not seek out, nor heed the advice from a variety of those who have ‘been there’, or are ‘going your same direction’ failure is not only assured--it is guaranteed. 4. THE WRONG CROWD: This cannot be made plainer, but goes along with my third point. Yes, seek out WISE counsel--but beware of those who always seem to have NO on the tip of their tongues. Some people will feed you negatives in order for you to be stuck with them in their own ‘misery pit’. Sadly, when they are ready to make a move up, they will do it on YOUR body. 5. FEAR: Believe it or not, there are some folk who sabotage their ability to succeed because they FEAR success. Thus, failure becomes their ‘silent partner’. After all, if one in this mindset does NOT achieve, it is no big loss to them. They have pre-programmed themselves to fail, and are quite content to remain in the ‘misery pit’ at a time in their lives when they could be climbing out and making it! Failure become like one’s favorite pair of shoes. Comfortable to wear, but not designed to take you in a real direction. 6. LIFE: I might as well make it plain here as well. Life DOES happen. Folk DO die. Companies DO close. Divorces and relationship breakups CAN happen. Layoff notices CAN find their way into your paycheck envelope. Friends and family members DO walk out the door. Children DO get into trouble. Bad things DO and CAN happen to good people. Age is more than a number, as your body changes. 7. NEGLECT: Several items come to mind in this category. Neglect of prayer, neglect of the true costs involved in the venture, neglect of the other person (if it is a marriage or a relationship), or neglect of your true talents, skills, and abilities could cause failure to seem like a regular visitor. HOW NOT TO RESPOND: Now that we have dealt with some of the reasons, we can focus on the wrong reactions to failure. 1. BITTERNESS: One of the sure fire killers of opportunity is bitterness. It has a long root, and is watered by salty tears cried over many nights in the surrounding darkness. It can cause a person to harbor grudges against God, people, or institutions--for days, months--or years. 2. BLAME: If you took a good look at some of the reasons behind failure that I listed, I trust that you noticed that there was not a finger-pointing topic. However, there are some of us who want to blame someone--anyone--if we are not successful in our particular quest or effort. Some folk have gotten so slick over the course of time that they have combined points one and two, and made them an art form. 3. ESCAPE: Oh, this one could form a column all by itself. I can count a firm number of folk who have been handed setback after setback, and have sought to escape their failures by drinking, drugging, and/or chasing. Some individuals have moved from city to city to city as a means to escape from setbacks. The only problem with using the escape option is that no matter where you go…there YOU are. 4. REVENGE: This trump card may work in the movies, but it does not work in real life. It could lead to more trouble down the road--including a lengthy stay in the local jail. 5. WITHDRAWL: Deciding to resign from the human race sounds good for the short term, but is not wise for the long term. People are still going to exist once you come out of your ‘cave’. Yes, take the time to heal and rest. But don’t plan on sealing yourself away from mankind. For, in the long run, you would be sealing yourself away from the very pathway that could lead you to success. SOMETIMES--YOU HAVE TO BE--A BULLDOG! Brothers, should failure cross your path, take it straight from a Gray Head. Learn from the experience, sift through the ashes, and salvage something that will teach you how to succeed in the next round. The worst thing in the world is for a failure to rob you of your energy to regroup, rebuild, and resurrect. Let’s look at the arena of divorce. Plenty of men have been through it. However, a good portion of brothers have learned from their mistakes, been blessed to have God lead another--better--woman into their lives, and have reaped the fruits of remarriage. Of course, you don’t hear from these brothers in our feminized mainstream press, or from the offerings of Hollywood and the small screen. Trust me. They DO exist. It is irrelevant to the issue as to whether or not you hear about them. But, those brothers who have learned from their failures in marriage and/or relationships don’t need to write books. They have a good wife that will prove that they learned the lessons needed to get back to the altar and say “I DO” one more time. Not everyone gets the ‘brass ring’ the first time through on life’s merry-go-round. However, the wise man realizes that failure is nothing more than a temporary setback. Not a knockout, nor certainly NOT the time to bury your dreams. One of my favorite stories of encouragement from the past involves a bulldog that would not give up in the face of failure. This pug, one fine spring afternoon, took a walk down an alley, and spied a yard with two bird dogs sunning themselves and having a great time barking insults at the passing bulldog. A quick leap over the fence, and it was ON! The bulldog got whipped by the pair of bird dogs, leaped the fence again to run away, rest, and lick his wounds. The next day, the bulldog came back for a rematch--and got whipped soundly again. The battle between the bulldog and the two bird dogs went on for several weeks--always with the bulldog coming out on the losing end. Finally, the bulldog showed up one afternoon, ready for his usual battle…and it was the bird dogs that ran off under the house. The bulldog--not shy about his victory--snorted at the bird dogs a few times and sunned himself in THEIR yard. The lesson learned from this story? There ARE times when we may have to keep on coming back to the scene of a failure. However, if we have the ability to keep on fighting, the failure HAS to flee from us, instead of the other way around. MIKE RAMEY is the author of THE MANHOOD LINE. A monthly, syndicated column written for men, from a biblical, business, and common sense perspective. THE MANHOOD LINE appears on fine websites around the world. Emails welcomed to [email protected]. ©2003, 2004 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International (16).