I heard someone say recently that failure is an important part of character development. That failure, in some form or fashion, is inevitable...and it's what you do with it that can cause the most personal growth.
It reminded me that this whole adventure with my stray donkey and the book that followed, was a result of my husband's and my journey through failure. The years of the Great Recession were brutal for us. Our business, which relied heavily on the housing market, was hit hard. And even though we could blame the sluggish economy for our failure, in the end the "why" didn't really matter.
All we knew was that our dream had all but died, and we had bills to pay.
It felt like a big, fat failure.
And you know what, when you're in the midst of one failure, it seems that all your other failures stack up like airplanes coming in for landing at a busy airport. One after the other, the missteps, the bad choices, the poor timings, the forgotten birthdays, the cross words, the burnt dinners...they pile on relentlessly.
During those years (yes, years) I found it difficult to hold my head up. Everything felt heavy. I napped often. It's one of my coping mechanisms.
The worst part is that my past failures made me afraid to try anything new. I mean, why bother? I knew I'd fail at the next thing, too.
I was stuck.
Eventually, I knew I needed to move past this failure thing...but how?
One of my favorite stories about Flash is the time he discovered a greatness inside him he didn't know he had. The incident happened right when I desperately needed inspiration to change.
Flash had been hanging out with the cows in the neighboring pasture. The cows were on one side of the fence, chewing cud and looking bored, while Flash was on the other side keeping them company.
One day, another neighbor's three horses got loose and Tom rounded them up and put them into Flash's pasture for safe-keeping until their owner could bring his trailer over and take them home. These horses were BEAUTIFUL! Sleek, shiny, elegant equine specimens.
Flash, my dusty, shaggy donkey, suddenly looked up from his cud-chewing friends and discovered that he had company: three gorgeous stallions, who pranced like ballerinos around the pasture.
I watched as Flash had a choice to make: stay with the cows and watch the greatness of these newcomers from the sidelines, or join in with them and do some of his own dancing.
It only took a moment for Flash to make his decision.
He would run with the horses.
The horses pranced.
They circled and spun.
Flash circled and spun.
Flash...well, he didn't glisten. He magnetically collected all the dust the horses kicked up.
He looked ridiculous out there, with his short legs and choppy mane and oversized head.
But he didn't care.
He was running with horses.
He'd found greatness, and that's all that mattered.
That picture stuck with me.
In a golden moment of donkey greatness, I realized that Flash discovered the key to moving past failure. That afternoon, he focused on the things inside him that made him great: all the chromosomes he shared with horses (62 of them!) and he ran with them. Perhaps all this time he'd been focused on the one set of chromosomes he lacked - the one set that differentiated him from horses - and settled for a life of mediocrity with the cows.
I suddenly saw that I'd been so focused on the things I lacked that I'd given up pursuing anything great. I'd given up on trying.
I'd given up on excellence.
And I realized I'd been going about things the wrong way. Perhaps instead of trying to move away from past failures, I would try moving TOWARD something, just like Flash did that day.
And that something was:
Excellence, I found, is a state of mind that made me sit up straighter and pay attention to details. It said,
I can do better.
I can go the extra mile.
I can put away the clean dishes.
I can exercise today.
I can limit Facebook so that I have time for what really matters.
I can take on a new goal.
Maybe you're struggling with failure today. Maybe all your missteps and mistakes are flooding your mind, making you feel stuck.
Let me suggest:
Today, instead of focusing on all the things you lack and all the "reasons" you shouldn't try anymore, simply move toward excellence.
Focus on doing the best job you can on that thing that's in front of you.
I'm not talking about perfectionsm, I'm simply saying that each day, it's possible to embrace doing things better than we have before. We can intentionally choose which things to let go of and which things to apply ourselves to. We can take a couple of goals and work on doing them well.
Move toward something.
Why not? I'm willing to pursue excellence. How about you?
What is one thing that you can do better today? How can you apply excellence to your day? How can the pursuit of excellence help you move past failure?