Success and Failure: The Good and the Good

I spent the better part of my life thinking about success and failure as two different outcomes. One was good; one was bad. Black. White. Maybe an occasional stripe or polka dot, but still very clear contrast.

But a funny thing happened on the road to successfully losing 100 pounds. I learned that a) success is awesome, and b) failure is…well, fairly darned awesome, too.

Admittedly, failing doesn’t always feel awesome, especially not at the time it occurs. Whether our investment is time, money, emotion, or any combination of those, realizing that we’re failing hurts. I’m not saying it shouldn’t hurt; in fact, it probably should, if it was a thing worth trying in the first place.

The thing is, too often we let that failure define us. We mentally slap that finger-thumb L-is-for-loser sign on our foreheads and slink around like the pathetic, low-life creatures we’ve proven ourselves to be. Eventually we become afraid to even try, or give up on it entirely, and that is a truly miserable way to live.

I know (now) that virtually all of my life successes are the direct result of failures. (I stumbled onto a few things that I got right the first time. But a very few. :) ) Success and failure go hand in hand. In the past, I was so caught up in the negative impact of failure that I couldn’t see the beauty in it, that succeeding was almost always the result of the input, or lessons learned, from failing. I do try to fail better these days, but even when I don’t make it, the joy is in the trying.

Quote: Success and failure. We think of the as opposites, but they're really not. They're companions--the hero and the sidekick. (Laurence Shames)

Where would Batman have been without Robin? Or Andy without Barney, Sherlock Holmes without Dr. Watson, Mary Richards without Rhoda, Lucy without Ethel, Don Quixote without Sancho Panza? Perhaps just as successful, perhaps not. It’s tough to say, but I do know this: the experience was richer with the hero AND the sidekick.

But maybe that’s just me. You may feel differently, and you are always welcome to share those feelings in the comments! :)

On a related note, which explains what has me thinking about success and failure today, I came across some quotes in my files over the weekend that I’d collected years ago for some class or another and had forgotten:

Qutoes If at first you don't succeed

Most of those were for giggles, but that last one was the intent of the lesson. :)

How do you define success? Is that your original definition, or have you refined it over the years?

20 thoughts on “Success and Failure: The Good and the Good

  1. So good Cammy. I learned a long time ago that I learned a lot more from my failures than my successes. Like, in dying fiber, learning how colors combine. Or in school/life lessons. But I haven’t always applied it to my weight loss journey, and that has been a problem for me. Thanks for this reminder!

    • That’s it, Debby! You weren’t born knowing how to do any of the amazing handwork you do. (Or were you?) You tried things that worked and some that didn’t and used all of it to the greater good.

  2. I think it comes with age that we learn to appreciate the failures with the successes. Sometimes when you’re younger you tend to let the failures define you inside if you’re not careful. I wish I could accept the failures better but I’m working on it! :-)

    • Failing certainly isn’t fun (well, sometimes it is, or at least it’s funNY), but it’s so necessary for growth. I try to stay focused on it as a temporary condition. :)

  3. Yes!! I have often said that there is no such thing as a step back…it’s all forward, it just doesn’t feel like it in the moment because, as you said, it sometimes hurts. But it’s all forward momentum.

    • Absolutely! When I fail at something, I try to remind myself that it’s temporary and if I can just get through the moment, I can figure out the next step. Or, you know, decide to quit {insert any number of projects I’m not very good at here}.

  4. I learn a lot from my successes and failures. Still learning a lot 😀

    I think I am also learning how to respond to the failures and how to reframe them to not beat myself up. Doesn’t change the outcome, but it sure changes how I feel about it and move on from there.

    • There should have been a course (or a series of courses) in our formative years on Learning How to Fail. I understand all the emphasis on succeeding, but a few (dozen) tips for dealing with the times when success is elusive would’ve been helpful to have before I hit my 40s. :)

  5. If I have learned something and can articulate what I’ve learned, then what I may feel is a failure isn’t a total loss. If there is something learned from the failure to help in moving forward, then there is a element of success.

  6. I’ve always had a difficult time with the concept of success and failure when it comes to weight loss and in life in general. Fortunately, when it comes to my weight, I don’t think about it in terms of success or failure any more. I EXPECT setbacks. Sometimes I do well, sometimes not so much, but I don’t define it as failure. I’ve succeeded at losing weight and at maintaining, so I think of my journey as mostly successful. It would be great if I could become this uber health nut who loves lettuce and shuns sugar, but I know now after 30 years at weight loss, I can only do my best.

  7. I love what Lori wrote… it has been a constant battle with me – lifelong – still learning & still trying. Failures from my past & recent sometimes sneak in on my thought process. I love that redefine success. I do realize that failures are not failures but learnings & we just have to listen to them…..

  8. I’m standing up and applauding you for this post Cammy! So true, and so relavent in all aspects of life, not just in the quest to lose weight. Thanks so much for this!!!!

  9. I do still struggle with this – most of my life was spent as a perfectionist so if the outcome wasn’t perfect I would be quite disappointed! I have learned to lighten up over the years.

    As it relates to losing weight – my “success” is in the fact that I refuse to give up even if I have some set backs (failures) along the way. Now if I decided to give up trying that would be a failure.

    Some of my kitchen “failures” have actually turned out to be okay – not the result I thought I would get but something satisfying none the less.

  10. I always think about the quote from Thomas Edison. “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” Another one credited to him was “I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” In your list, I like the second to last one the best! 😉

  11. It took so long but I finally redefined success as trying. As putting myself out there, facing my fears, out of my comfort zone… Mostly it’s become less about the result and more about the effort and the challenge and how I faced it… hopefully with grace and determination.
    By the way I LOVE the way your blog looks. I have nearly 500 posts in my feed and I’ve missed so much of you. Hopefully I’m back now. I’ve linked this to my new “talking bout my journey to fitness” blog.
    I really need you… I saw on Ellen’s blog that you were basically my age when you lost your weight… You’re my closest role model and I am trying to follow you. xo

    • I’m here! I’m here! You’re on the right path (and have been for a while). Now’s the time to pull it all together! (I’ll be over to check out the new space in just a bit.)

    • Another benefit of failure is that it opens you up to receiving {{{{{e-hugs}}}}} from friends! Sorry it didn’t work out for you, but I’m sure you’ll grow from it.

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