“Fall down 53 times. Get up 54” – Zen slogan

Failure is unavoidable. There’s no way to avoid times of crushing defeat, great loss, terrible regret. We might like to think that “failure is not an option,” but it’s guaranteed to appear and reappear throughout our lives. This is just how life works. It helps to know this ahead of time. Or to learn it very quickly. What’s essential is how we work with failure, what we do once its ugly face appears.



Some people feel that failure is a lesson sent by God to teach them what they need to learn. Others feel that failure is a punishment meted out to them by God or destiny. To some it’s karma. Whatever your personal view, failure certainly is an opportunity to learn—not just about yourself, but about how the world works. Failure is filled with messages. How we interpret those messages is critical to what happens next. When we fail, we have the opportunity to feel really bad about ourselves. Often, our own negativity is encouraged by others telling us how worthless we are, how everything that’s gone wrong is our fault. But we could learn more helpful and realistic things. We could learn that every failure results from a complexity of factors. It’s never just one person’s fault. We could learn about ourselves, what triggers us, which of our behaviors create problems, which seem helpful. We could learn about the dynamics and patterns present in the situation that had an impact on its negative outcome. It takes a lot of contributions from many different sources to create failure. We’re wasting the opportunity to learn and grow if we try to pin the blame on just one person or one reason.

– Margaret Wheatley from ‘Perseverance’

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