The other evening I took my family out to one of our favorite Italian restaurants. My wife received a gift card so we took advantage of a free night out. During the course of our meal one of the waiters dropped a glass on the concrete floor, shattering it into a thousand pieces. The sound was startling and unmistakable. It took us all by surprise. But what happened next was equally surprising: the staff applauded the incident.
The experience brought me back to an important principle I need to remember more often: Celebrate failure.
It was Thomas Edison who famously said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” Regardless of how he spun it, Edison would not have become the inventor he was had he not seized the opportunities to learn from his failures.
Celebrating failure can bring these benefits:
- It relieves some pressure. We experience way too much pressure today to succeed. Without opportunities to fail with gusto, the pressure would grow to unmanageable levels. Such stress and strain leads to burnout or to just quit trying.
- It preserves the worth of the individual. Most of us create an unhealthy connection between our performance and our worth. Criticism and personal failure chip away at our perceived value until we believe that failure has made us less than who we are. Being able to celebrate failure allows us to learn from our mistakes in a healthy way without questioning our value for who we are in Christ.
- It opens powerful avenues for learning and success. Going back to Edison’s quote, it’s our failures that sometimes lead us to the best and most sustainable solutions. The first idea is often not the best. But if it ‘works’, we will stop pursing the best. Celebrating failure allows the pursuit of the ‘best’ to continue, bringing wisdom and more lasting success.
What about you? What failures have you celebrated lately?