January 10th, 2017

On the night before my wedding my phone rang and I knew it wasn’t good before the person even started talking. The week had been so fun; my groomsmen all stayed at my house, we golfed, we surfed, we ate far too many tacos. I was entering marriage in a great spot. But something wasn’t right the moment the phone rang.

It was my fiancé and she began to cry. In the midst of all the commotion, planning, and festivities, I had forgotten one thing: her. She said to me, “you haven’t called me once this week or asked how I’m doing. It’s like you have forgotten me.”

I had failed. Worse than that, I felt like I was a failure of a husband before we had even walked down the aisle! How could I possibly be the husband I want to be if my marriage was beginning with a painful look in the mirror?

Separating our failures from our identity is a task worth the effort.

Zig Ziglar said “failure is an event, not a person.” Imagine if I entered marriage believing I was a failure? I’d be doomed for life. But when a couple stands before their loved ones on their wedding day, they have no clue how to be married well. It’s going to be years of hard work before their marriage can withstand its first real challenge. The process of growth will have many, and often times funny, stories of failure.

That moment changed me. I wept with her on the phone, apologized for my absence, and took my vows incredibly serious the next day. As I reflected on that experience later, a critical shift took place in my values. Intentionally considering my wife and her needs became a daily principle I live by now. She gets the best of me before anything else does. That may not have happened without failing the night before my wedding.

Failure can teach us things success cannot.

It can teach you how strong you really are. Ask anyone successful how they got to where they are and you will hear stories of challenge, overcoming obstacles, and moments of failure along the way. Same with parents who have raised great kids, athletes who have won major championships, or business owners who have made a lasting impact: failure is a necessary part of development.

Failure embeds a longing for a future success.

My son riding his bike needs to scrape his knees a few times. Your daughter learning math has to get questions wrong sometimes. Championship teams will lose big games. When we fall short of a worthy goal, a deep desire is set aflame in our soul to accomplish what we have set out to do. That is something success cannot do. Desire planted deep in our hearts can become a driving force for a future success far greater than the original endeavor.

When you think about your life, or the life of your kids, let’s make a couple commitments together:

  • Allow failure to foster growth, not invite shame and guilt
  • Fail fast enough to recover, but slow enough to learn
  • Separate failure from identity

You are not the sum of your mistakes. You are the product of growth that comes from overcoming life’s most significant challenges.

Jared Kirkwood is the Chief Talent Officer at The YouSchool, a company that seeks to see all people become fully-functional adults with a clear purpose who have the tools they need to reach their potential. Jared is an expert in leadership development and storytelling, and uses those skills to guide people towards living a meaningful life.

This post was previously published by theyouschool.com.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.