A few weeks ago, I found out that I passed the California Bar Exam.
Preparing for the test was arduous, and waiting for the results was almost as bad!
As Rachelle and I hugged each other in excited relief, I was reminded of something a friend said to me at the beginning of my law school experience:
“Jer, you just have the Midas touch.”
As I remember it, this proclamation was extremely matter of fact, with a heavy ‘stop worrying, you have no reason to be nervous, you always succeed’ implication…
It’s also completely false!
There is ample wreckage of failure strewn all about my life – and this is definitely not a bad thing! But my friend’s assessment was rather selective, and did not seem to account for any of my defeats.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life – and that is why I succeed.”
– Michael Jordan
At the time, I was slightly offended. I’m a fairly capable guy, but my success (and failure) has cost a tremendous amount of hard work. Nonetheless, as I considered how to share my bar-passage news with friends and family, I started to wonder if my friend’s evaluation had more to do with how I portray victories and defeats than a mistaken assumption.
Maybe my friend didn’t see my failures because I didn’t share them?
The way we represent our success and failure has significant implications for the way we relate with other people, and our ability to equip and encourage them.
But failure connects!
Success and failure are two halves of the same coin. If we want our lives to be as impactful as possible, it’s important to share both! By presenting a full picture, we can use our experiences to help other people acknowledge their individual potential, mitigate their fear of failure, and capitalize on their opportunities.
Notably, when it comes to sharing about success and failure, people err on both sides – often due to insecurity:
Have you ever met someone who only seems comfortable downplaying his success, shrinking back, and talking about his failures? Oftentimes, it’s even impossible to give him a compliment without it being brushed aside. People with this tendency may have deeper complications resulting from formative experiences. For example, if you were told you couldn’t do anything right as a child, you may feel the same as an adult. However, false modesty can also be a manifestation of pride.
Sharing our failures helps us connect with other people, nonetheless.
There is an interesting double standard that all of us tend to apply throughout our lives: We judge other people objectively, but we evaluate ourselves subjectively. As a result, the success enjoyed by other people appears neat and clean because we don’t see the struggle involved in attaining it. What’s more, we remain keenly aware of our own challenges and difficulties – and conclude that ‘successful’ people must somehow be special. When we can both acknowledge success and share failure, this myth is dispelled!
You probably also know people who constantly promote a shiny façade. They may not care whether or not they have ‘the Midas touch,’ so long as everyone else thinks they do! Individuals with this tendency are likely also responding to deeper pressures related to their sufficiency, potential, and value, whether they are conscious of it or not.
Promoting success in this fashion smacks as arrogance, but people are still impressed and even inspired.
While a person’s pride may be disturbing, there’s still something about success realized that gives hope: Hard work really can pay off. Dreams really do come true! Regardless of the individual at issue, tangible success brings intangible hope much closer and can fuel our resolve to press on.
Share a Story Worth Telling: Promote BOTH!
Most importantly, however, if we want to have the greatest positive impact in the lives of other people, we need to be able to convey a sober, realistic assessment of both our success and failure!
“Effective leaders know their primary job isn’t to amass personal accomplishments, but to accomplish as much as possible through the gifts of others.”
– John Maxwell
Other people are best served by understanding our existential struggles, process of trial and error, reasoning for different choices, positive and negative consequences, sacrifices and doubts, and the intervention of Providence or serendipity.
When we can accurately portray these realities, we can both connect and inspire!
When we cannot, we lose the ability to objectify success and failure, are less able to rationalize the steps we took to achieve it, and may be unable to help others see the steps they can take in their own lives.
In short, we become unable to equip and encourage other people.
Where are you?
When it comes to acknowledging success and failure, people present on a continuum. The two extremes are described above, but the ideal is somewhere in the middle. In reality, to be most effective, we must be able to take a humble approach to both our successes and failures. Doing so will allow us to better understand and more effectively convey our experiences and the steps we took to make dreams come true.
The best part is that, as a result, we will be better able to help others proceed toward their own dreams and goals.
“Success inspires, but failure connects. Live a life of significance – learn to share both!” – Click to Tweet
Leave a Comment: Are you comfortable sharing both your success and failure? If not, where do you fall on the continuum?