Be Unstoppable: Fail Forward

Failure is a part of life truly lived.

Read that again, slowly. Now take a moment to think about that statement, let it sink in and mull it over a few times, turn it over and examine it, inside and out.

Life is not truly lived unless we fail. Unless we take chances, win  some and lose some; unless we make mistakes and learn from those mistakes; unless we fall down, get up, brush ourselves off, and get back at it. Without failure there can be no real success.

But our culture sees failure as something to abhor, something to avoid like the a four-armed, eight -eyed creature. It frowns upon failure, condemns it, banishes it from vocabulary. To speak of it is to open the door through which it might pass, so uttering the word is taboo. Failure is not an option.

We’re told to think positive, plan for victory, clean our minds of negative thinking. Embrace only positive! But still failure is there, if you take a risk, a chance; if you step out on that limb, no matter how thick and sturdy it may appear to be, there is always the chance it might break, or you might lose your footing.

From the time we begin to stand we begin to fall. That first action, attempting that first achievement, is laced with danger. It’s not easy balancing on two legs, and yet we try, we fall, we try again. Our little brains learn, form new neural pathways, our muscles adapt, and we eventually attain victory. We stand, then we walk, we run, we jump, we fall, skinned knees, bruised elbows, tears . . . failure is a faithful teacher if you pay attention.

There are those who have achieved much only after they have failed greatly. Those who have gone before us and now serve as witnesses, a great cloud of witnesses testifying that obstacles are only obstacles, falling is only falling, failing isn’t the end, it’s merely part of the journey.

Henry Ford had five business attempts go broke before he founded the Ford Motor Company. R. H. Macy lost seven businesses before getting it right. Thomas Edison was told by teachers that he was too stupid to learn anything and famously failed in 1,000 attempts before inventing the light bulb.

Orville and Wilbur Wright spent years crashing failed prototypes before they had a plane get airborne and stay there. While he was living, Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting and that one to a friend but he plugged on, completing more than 800 works. Theodore Seuss Giessel was rejected 27 times before finding a publisher. And Jack London received 600 rejection slips before selling his first manuscript.

But certainly one of the most well-known failures of our day was Michael Jordan. In his own words he stated: “I have missed more than 900 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Wait a minute. Did you read that right?

And that is why I succeed.

You see, failing does two things for us. One, it teaches us, it instructs us in how not to do something. When asked how he felt about failing so many times to make a light bulb that worked, Edison said he didn’t fail 1,000 times, he discovered 1,000 ways not to make a light bulb. That’s a winning attitude.

Two, failure drives us to not fail again. No one likes the feeling of hitting the ground. It’s humbling and it hurts. Sometimes it leaves a mark, sometimes it even draws blood. By failing our resolve is toughened, our determination steeled. We try harder, train harder, work harder. We don’t want that feeling again.

Top athletes all share one quality: they hate to lose. They’re not winners because they love to win, no, but because they hate to lose. They hate failure. Do they still fail? Absolutely. Michael Jordan summed it up profoundly. But in losing, in failing, in stumbling, they find the fire to press on and seek that next victory.

They realize that failure is part of the game, part of life, but they never let it stop them.

Be unstoppable.


About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on February 3, 2014, in Be Unstoppable, Christian Living, Life in General and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Hey, Mike, thanks. That’s a great reminder. I should be counting rejection slips! No, wait–I haven’t sent anything lately, but I’m doing a mean revision on the book from the clinic in Philly.


  2. Mike, I love the piece. I always say, to fail is not to lose as we gain something in every experience. To fail is to learn one more thing about ourselves and that is not to stop. Not to stop thinking, not to stop changing and definitely not to stop trying. The only way to LOSE is to not get up that last time you were knocked down.


  3. Thank you so much for you honest and encouraging post. Appreciated it so much that I shared it on my FB timeline…but I didn’t ask your permission so I hope it is ok that I did. Love the thought “Fail Forward.” I like Henry van Dyke’s quote, “Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sing best.”


  4. When I was younger, I had a lot of fear. Maybe it was the over protective way I was raised, maybe it was just my personality. Then I became a Mom, felt all of those instinctive urges to help my children become everything they were meant to become. Now I’m energized by challenges. I love trying new things, facing my fears. Life can be fun, or boring, we chose the direction. Enjoyed your thoughts as usual.


  1. Pingback: Be Unstoppable: A New Look at Suffering | MIKE DELLOSSO

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