December 4, 2020
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How to fail well

By: Steven Campbell
July 5, 2019

Most of us teach resilience to our children. 

“Don’t give up,” 

“Get back on your feet,” 

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.,”

When I was younger, I remember my attempting to teach resilience to myself   by trying to become a true perfectionist. However, I only became perfect in becoming my harshest critic.

No one insisted I do this - I did it on my own and boy did I pay the price!

In the process however, I also discovered that in order to nurture others, I must also nurture myself.

“But Steve! Isn’t that being selfish?”

Just the opposite!

When an overseas airline flight takes off, the attendants have special instructions for parents who are sitting next to their children. If the plane is having trouble and the masks come down, FIRST put them on yourself, for then you can put them on your precious children. In other words, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be there for your children.

Let’s face it, mistakes, hiccups, absences, let downs, stumbles, and failures are all part of life. But the biggest mistake of all is to stand still and not do anything. In fact, failing to act when stricken with adversity deprives the world of your talents.

After all, where would we be without the pioneers of the world?  

The researchers at the University of British Columbia who developed the Heart Valve Performance.

The Tel HaShomer Hospital in Tel Aviv, who is leading the way in biotechnical innovation

Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburg, who developed the first effective polio vaccine. Now polio is close to being eradicated around the world, thanks to the dedicated work and money from Rotarians, as well as the Gates Foundation.

However, all of those magnificent research centers and people have also failed, probably more than most of us have. 

The difference is that, like all other high achievers, THEY FAILED WELL.  

They used every misstep and disappointment as a building block to take a step towards understanding. It would be a bit of a stretch to say that they celebrated failure, but they understood that to achieve true success one must sometimes look into the darkness, and come out the other side a better, more complete person.

Think of this, dear reader. The imperfections and frailties in those whom we love can actually draw us even closer to them! I don’t claim to be the first to uncover this truth. In fact, it’s been part of philosophical thought for many centuries.

In the Japanese way of Zen, wabi -sabi suggests that we would do well to slow down so as to see beauty in the flawed and imperfect. By extension we also see this in the 15th century art of Kintsugi or “golden repair,” the Japanese art of mending broken porcelain. These once-shattered pieces are rebuilt with dazzling masonry of gold and other precious metals, to make the newly reconstructed piece an entirely new and unique work of art.

In observing these beautiful objects one sees the beauty of flaws acknowledged as a new part of the object’s design—a compelling and illustrative story of mistakes, patience and renewal.

A few days ago, I was chatting with my family about how thankful I am for what has happened since I became a professional speaker back in 2008. It is true I’ve had more missteps than successes, but I have learned some very valuable lessons, and it’s because of those trials and tribulations that I’ve been able to build something worth sharing with the world.

I am no longer trying to be perfect, but I have learned to graciously accept the lessons as they come to me, especially the ones which did not come on my own terms.

I am no longer the lone hunter searching perfection. I am a seeker: of truths, of cooperation, of opportunity, and of the next step in the ladder.

We achieve everything thanks to others with different perspectives and from different walks of life. None of us like failing, but we can learn how to FAIL WELL. 

Be kinder to yourself, dear reader, and you will then be far kinder to others. 

Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available on line at  For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.