When I was young, my uncle had a favorite saying. “Mama said there’d be days like this…but she didn’t mention that there would be so many so close together!” Do you feel like a failure? Do you look back on what you have achieved in the past with disappointment? Do you think your efforts to be a servant-leader have been in vain?
George Washington, the Failed Leader?
We all have goals that we haven’t achieved or lost our enthusiasm about the future at one time or another. Everyone experiences highs and lows. Many great leaders, including Winston Churchill, became despondent and disheartened at times. Sometimes we do miss our target or fail, which should cause us to seriously examine what went wrong and learn from our mistakes. It is also true that “we reap what we sow.” But, before you label yourself a failure, consider these things:
First, failure is relative to time. Sometimes we feel like we’ve had a great day, sealed a deal, or made great progress only to find out in the coming days or months that our efforts had fallen flat. Other days seem incredibly challenging or brutal, but when we look back on them, we realize that the challenges faced were the best thing that ever happened to us. Time has a way of turning failure into success. For example, during the earlier part of the American Revolutionary War, George Washington and his troops lost virtually every battle or encounter he had with British troops. It was demoralizing, and Mr. Washington could have justifiably been labeled a failure. However, they continued on and little by little, with every loss of a British soldier, they shook the resolve of the British. Over time, George Washington became a hero rather than failed leader. The same can be true for us. Often we have to wait patiently for our hard work to produce tangible results.
Second, failure is dependent on your perspective. At times we all go through terrible things, but it is possible to see a silver lining. Often, failure is success if we look at it from a different point of view. By keeping a positive outlook, it is nearly impossible to reflect on an event without seeing some good come from it. For example, a severe drought in 1872 devastated the grape crop in California. While most farmers threw in the towel and considered their crops an utter failure, one farmer took his “dried up” grapes to market and they were advertised as “Peruvian delicacies.” These shriveled grapes sold for far more than fresh grapes, and to this day raisins are a popular staple in many diets!
It is also important to set the right standards for what we consider to be success or failure. Do you measure success based on power acquisition, great influence, or prestige? A better measure for success would be using your strengths and talents to do all you can in any given situation. Our achievement is always limited by our circumstances.
Be careful how you determine failure and how swiftly you judge a person or situation as such. Remember that failure is often relative to time. While you might feel like your efforts today have failed, you may have just planted the seeds for success in the future. Learn from your mistakes, be patient, and keep a positive outlook, and you may find that the end result is far more of a success than a failure.
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