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Friday, December 20, 2013

Successful Failure -- My Best Isn't "Good Enough"

Sometimes your best just isn't good enough. I have faced this revelation after trying my utmost and failing. And, I'm not referring to getting back up, dusting myself off, returning to the drawing board and fighting through the obstacles to ultimate success. I'm talking about an end result after facing and accepting my limitations while retaining some kind of dignity and grace.

Let me give you an example. This is not my own result, but one close to my heart. Right now my 93-year-old mother, my best friend in the world, communicates with me in spurts while searching for some way to let her thoughts become words. We begin a discussion about pertinent subjects and current information, but then, when she wants to ask me something she needs to know or when I tell her any news, she cannot adequately use her mind to process the language. The ability to easily interact has left her forever. gone.

Mom is an extremely intelligent woman who until a couple of years ago read books every day, easily processed information, and enjoyed visiting. Now, she gets extremely frustrated that she cannot think and talk without fumbling. She tells me how she hates to be trapped inside her own mind with memory lapses and missing verbal skills.

Of course, I tell her not to worry about her condition, and we still have our conversations -- spurts of communication in which I try to fill in her missing thoughts. And, at times, she regrets her loss of processing information so much that she becomes full of anxiety and sadness. This has even led to bouts of depression that center on obsession. I can tell she is living with hurt and worry because she understands she is not "normal."

I, like most, love stories that promote unbound determination in the face of overwhelming odds. I admire people who beat their demons and succeed. They are positive role models for all well-intentioned individuals. In writing this blog, I do not wish to diminish the accomplishments of underdogs. I know how important it is for me to use maximum effort to keep rising above setbacks.

But, today I'm not talking about something that can be overcome with effort. Instead, I'm talking about living with limits and accepting defeat as a permanent resident of character. I think I am better off knowing my "best" in many areas of my life is lacking. And sometimes when I just cannot do more, I have learned to switch off the effort while adjusting to my less desirable conditions. My life has been greatly enhanced by understanding defeat is not an emotional death sentence.

I understand that some people believe a person who decides to stop an endeavor is a coward or a gutless quitter, but carrying on despite constant mental and physical injury is a fruitless proposition. Determined, hard working people do find limits to their abilities. These people are not defective because they stop applying themselves to travails. They simply reach their human limits. Learning to live with limitations and losing doesn't mean ceasing fruitful existence. But, it often means adapting to change and setting upon new discoveries.

When I commit, I am a person who tries to do his best, but after running into brick wall after brick wall, I also prize the value of saying "fuck it." I never mean to hurt another when I give up and declare defeat, but I know sometimes unintentional injury does happen. Still, I have found going through a long grieving process about my failures is lost time: anguish is very unproductive to my redistributing energy to something else and finding fertile ground for different actions.

Winston Churchill once said, "Sometimes it is not enough to do our best; we must do what is required." In a perfect world, I would find that my best efforts produce unparalleled results. Sometimes, when I give all my industry and fall short of a targeted goal, I do "what is required." The Latin etymology of required is "to seek to know." And, at times life requires people to do just that because for whatever reason they cannot "do their best" to fulfill an imperative.

Mother Teresa said, "God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that we try." Indeed, to me, that lesson is so important. God would allow us to lose, fail, backslide, fizzle, and flounder. I believe a truly wise person learns to find his own "blues" and let the Man Upstairs help him accept shortcomings, endure the pain, and learn from the experiences. Yet, this does not guarantee a human will eventually succeed with his shallow will.

Perhaps this thinking goes against the grain of some tireless fighters. Gary Ryan Blair, said to be one of the top strategic thinkers in the world, said: "Do more than is required. What is the distance between someone who achieves their goals consistently and those who spend their lives and careers merely following? The extra mile."

That "extra mile" can be very difficult to achieve without resources, and some people lack the ability to acquire these assets and reserves. It should be noted that many people equate "doing their best" with "getting the best" in terms of landing "perfect" jobs, relationships, and material possessions. In reality, so many do well just to hang onto the planet and survive the ride.

It is ironic that Mother Teresa, one of the most famous icons of strength, nobility and love that ever walked the earth prevailed with simplicity and dedication. Her message to all people was simple: "Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." Mother Teresa toiled daily with the understanding that feeding just one starving person is the required obligation, even though a hundred around her may be dying of malnutrition. She reminded us all: "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

She set out to change the world, one person
at a time. Her work with the people she called “the
poorest of the poor,” her advocacy for human rights
and her tireless faith and gentle demeanor made her
savior to thousands. But her grand goals were based
on a simple commitment to give. - See more at:

It has always been my hope that God will give me the strength and ability to do my best, yet I never expect Him to guarantee my faith will produce wonderful results. The ability to stop is as important as the ability to proceed. I believe the key to accepting change is often stimulated by what I view at the time as a monument failure.

It does hurt to lose when doing your best. I realize that something or someone just whipped my ass despite my throwing some good shots and maybe learning something useful through my struggles; however, I chose to stop, say "fuck it," and walk away without pride. Humble pie can taste like crow but satisfy the effort.

Do more than is required. What is the distance between someone who achieves their goals consistently and those who spend their lives and careers merely following? The extra mile.

Do more than is required. What is the distance between someone who achieves their goals consistently and those who spend their lives and careers merely following? The extra mile.

Successful Failure by Robert William Service
I wonder if successful men
Are always happy?
And do they sing with gusto when
Springtime is sappy?
Although I am of snow-white hair
And nighly mortal,
Each time I sniff the April air
I chortle.

I wonder if a millionaire
Jigs with enjoyment,
Having such heaps of time to spare
For daft employment.
For as I dance the Highland Fling
My glee is muckle,
And doping out new songs to sing
I chuckle.

I wonder why so soon forgot
Are fame and riches;
Let cottage comfort be my lot
With well-worn britches.
As in a pub a poor unknown,
Brown ale quaffing,
To think of all I'll never own,--
I'm laughing.

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