God Stuff

Learning To Fail?


All-in: a term used in the game of Poker when a player bets all his/her chips.


There are lots of terms used to describe various levels of failure. One might “make a misstep” or “botch a robbery.” You could “make a mess of things” or “take a false step.” Movies “flop” and comedians “bomb.”

My favorite term though and perhaps the greatest most spectacular form of failure possible is


A fiasco is a truly remarkable failure. A fiasco is one for the books. It’s a cautionary tale. A story told at parties. Something you will be remembered for.

A fiasco can change the course of your life.

You were this person, on this trajectory, with this plan for your life.

Then there was the fiasco.

But there aren’t just levels of failure, there are types of failure.

The first type of failure is just that…failure.

There’s no moral to the story. There’s no lesson to be learned. There’s just failure. Something that was, now isn’t. Something that began with such promise just never panned out. You did your best. You did everything right. You gave it your all.

Still it failed.

This type of failure is hard to take.

Because we want things to make sense.

We want all our hard work
and time
and energy
and hopes
and dreams
to have been for a reason.

But what if there isn’t?

Sometimes the business fails.
Sometimes the relationship ends.
Sometimes cancer.
Sometimes death.

The French philosopher Albert Camus defines this as the absurd. It’s that conflict between the human need for meaning and the apparent meaninglessness of the world.

In other words, sometimes life isn’t fair. Some situations defy meaning. To look for a cause, a purpose or a point is to do a disservice. A child dies in a car crash. A young mother gets cancer. The holocaust. These events aren’t retribution by an angry God for some failing. And they aren’t life lessons to help us become better people.

They’re just events that really really suck.

For Camus, the appropriate response to some situations isn’t to look for meaning where there is none and it isn’t to try and escape that meaninglessness. It’s to accept it, embrace it and make the best of life going forward.


In the second type of failure there IS a lesson to be learned.

Sometimes because we fail, we grow. You might call it a teachable moment. Sometimes when we fail there was a mistake made but we learn from that failure and come back stronger.

New Coke for instance.

Thomas Edison is famous for saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

And he invented the light bulb.

Sometimes we trust the wrong person.
Sometimes the timing isn’t right.
Sometimes we say the wrong thing.
Sometimes we miss the shot…the putt…the mark.

Babe Ruth (one of the greatest hitter in baseball history) hit 714 home runs.

He struck out 1,330 times.

There will be times in your life when you give it your all, when you pour all your heart and soul into something. When you study, plan and prepare.

And still, you fail.

But given time, prayer, introspection and advice one day you’ll wake up and the pain will be less intense. You’ll see that you have become a better person.

You may even look back on the failure as a blessing in disguise.


And then there’s a third type of failure. It’s a failure that isn’t a failure at all.

This one’s a little harder to understand. In fact, you might call it paradoxical in nature. How can a failure be a success?

Isn’t a failure by definition the lack of success?

That’s what Merriam-Webster says.

Are we talking about a matter of semantics? Or is there something more?


God said of Job, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” …and he lost everything.

Saul of Tarsus set out to capture and kill the followers of Christ …and became the greatest evangelist the world has ever known.

Jesus died on a cross …and I think we know how that turned out.


In the movie Elizabethtown (and I’m suddenly realizing that I write far too many blog posts about romantic comedies) Drew Baylor (I’m also realizing this may be the first spiritual lesson learned from the acting of Orlando Bloom) is a young shoe designer for Mercury Worldwide Shoes. He has spent the last several years of his life completely absorbed in his work. He’s missed holidays and time with his family, sacrificing everything for the pursuit of his passion: the perfect running shoe. Unfortunately, the Spasmotica (his design) is a complete failure, ultimately being recalled and costing his company nearly one billion dollars. In the process, Drew loses his job, his reputation and his girlfriend. Without giving away the plot (it’s on Netflix people), in a voiceover epilog Drew opines:

“No true fiasco ever began as a quest for mere adequacy.”

You were made for so much more.

So much more than the status quo.
So much more than just getting by.
So much more than settling for that.
For this.
For them.

Have you experienced a failure in your life? Did the relationship end? Did the job not pan out? Did the deal fall through? Were you lied to? Was there pain? Is it over?

It hurts. A lot. But trust me, you aren’t alone.

Identify the type of failure. If there is a lesson, learn it.


One day. One step. One breath at a time.

And the next time life presents you with an opportunity. The next time you are dealt a hand. Go all-in. Because the size of your failure or the measure of your success will always be proportional to the amount of your heart you pour into something.

“No true fiasco ever began as a quest for mere adequacy.”

You were made for so much more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *