Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else
there is no end to the blame.
Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.
– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
I’ve had a few setbacks this week – good things I was expecting did not come my way. I was originally frustrated until I really thought long and hard about it and realized that the things did not come my way because I hadn’t done the things I needed to do to make them happen. Expecting rewards where none were due, I blamed others and was frustrated.
Blaming others when failure is a result of your action (or in my case, inaction) is a waste of time, energy, and spirit. Focus instead on what you can do to correct your own mistakes, and in those failures, there is an opportunity for growth.
You may be made to slay dragons, but it doesn’t mean you’ll always be able to do so. Failure is inevitable, and if you’re not failing and making the occasional bad decision, you’re not doing your best work. Really showing up and dancing with the uncertainty that comes with doing your best work means you’re going to underestimate, under-prioritize, and under-prepare for a challenge that then gets the best of you. (Remember my inaction?)
The gift of failure is that it reveals what matters to you, shows you when you’re out of alignment, and reveals a growth edge.
But failure isn’t a mark of character but rather a sign that something was out of alignment. Your past failures are in the past. They aren’t predictive of what you’ll be able to do in the future. Your best bet is to follow this Cherokee proverb: “Don’t let yesterday eat up too much of today.”
Each day is a new day to try again with the lessons of yesterday as a guide, not a straightjacket.
If you want to thrash through what matters to you, get back into alignment, or experience a growth edge, pick up Start Finishing. I’ll walk you through the process from idea to done, and show you how to handle all the steps and missteps along the way.
(This selection came from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching.)