Sunday, April 1, 2012


Your life, despite what it may feel like or seem at any given moment, is not measured by your failures.  Unless, that is, you let your failures define you.  That is a choice that is entirely in your hands.  My wife and I have a poster that used to hang in our first apartment (at the moment I think it is in the basement inspiring my dogs) that featured a picture of Lincoln.  Underneath his picture it listed the number of times one of our greatest presidents failed at various endeavors, from business to running for office, before he was finally elected the 16th president of the United States.  While this poster no longer goes with our decor, I have nevertheless kept its sentiment close to my heart all these years.  And trust me, throughout the past fourteen years I have needed to remind myself on numerous occasions.  The old adage "learn from your mistakes" is for me, a little incomplete.  It's always suggested that if you happen to fail, learn from the experience.  It seems to indicate that if you do everything right, you wont fail at all, but if you do, use the opportunity to better yourself.  I might be reading into the saying a bit, but let's just assume I'm right.  The problem is that you can do everything right and still fail.  In fact, you will fail numerous times throughout your life.  Sorry.  Nothing you can do to change that and thinking that there is a chance that you will always succeed only sets you up for failure.  No I don't mean that you should go into every undertaking with the expectation that you aren't going to succeed.  Quite the contrary.  I think you should take on everything in life with the attitude that you are going to win.  What I am trying to say is that you have to be aware that while this can do spirit and bravado is exactly what you need to give a situation your best, it is often not accurate.  It's one of the few times its okay to lie to yourself.  What you need to realize though is that you will fail and when you do, you need to know what to do about it.
Let me throw a couple words at you.  Perseverance.  Heart.  Spirit.  Courage.  Bootstraps.  When you fall, and fall you will, you have to be the type of person that, rather than lying on the ground sulking in your failure, picks themselves up by the bootstraps and carries on.  There are two quotes by Ernest Hemingway that I particularly love which are relevant to what I'm discussing.  "The world breaks everyone, and afterward some are strong at the broken places."  "A man can be destroyed but not defeated."  Its not really failing that's important.  Or even learning from your mistakes.  After all, you can learn to be afraid and reclusive from mistakes.  Neither is really beneficial to being successful at living.  What matters is what you do after you fall, fail or stumble.  If you have the courage to pick yourself back up and learn to be stronger, fiercer, more determined, then you will have found the true measure of your worth.  Be stronger in the broken places, because you will break on occasion.  
In my life I've failed at being a good husband, a good father.  I've gotten sick and had to leave my military career.  I've lost my physique and gotten overweight.  I've never had my novels adorn a shelf at Barnes and Noble.  I could never get my first dog to stop pooping on the floor. 
I'm also...still married to my college sweetheart and have two healthy, happy, smart, well behaved children.  I got healthy again and became a firefighter and soon a paramedic.  In the past two months I've lost ten pounds and several inches off my belly.  While my books aren't on the bestseller list at Barnes and Noble, I've self published four novels and a novella and slowly but surely, people are reading them and giving rave reviews.  I'm not luckier than most people or even close to as lucky as some might seem.  What I do have is perseverance.  That ability to pick myself up after a fall, brush off the dirt and keep swinging for the fences.  I'm stronger in the broken places and while I will be broken many more times in the future, I plan on making each and every failure a point of strength.  Success is a fluid thing, determined by so many factors that it would be impossible to narrowly define.  For me though, the definition of a successful person will always include their ability to carry on in the moments after disappointment, adversity, and setback.  
P.S. I have three dogs now and not one of them poops on my floor.

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