There is no escape, no way to hide. It will find all of us at one point or another during our lifetimes. It has been said that a book of failures would be a great book to read, so that we could learn from other’s mistakes.
Have you ever noticed that there are never any “failure seminars”? There are plenty of speakers on the topic of success. You can catch a motivational seminar online or in a conference room in a hotel most any weekend.
I have failed at so many things I could not even list them all here. The good news is, I took a valuable lesson away from each one. One of the best thing about pushing yourself hard and ultimately hitting your goals, is that our minds tend to gloss over the periods of heartbreak and failure, focusing instead on our successes.
One day I decided to take up a new hobby: prospecting for gold in the mountains and deserts of California. I really did not know much about it at all, but when my wife and dog and I hiked in the mountains we had seen several people panning for gold in the streams and it got me interested. I started reading everything I could about gold prospecting and the history of the gold bearing regions in California.
The next weekend, instead of heading off on our usual hike, we packed our lunch, a few shovels, and some tools we had picked up for gold panning. We headed to the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. We parked our car and hiked a mile or so up a path along the river. We found a giant boulder and I started digging out buckets of dirt and passing them to my wife who would pan it out in the water. We dug for hours and found nothing, not a trace of that elusive gold. We did have a great time! Our dog fished in the river, we enjoyed the sunshine, cool water, amazing scenery and our hike.
We went back to that river many times. Each time we dug deep holes and found nothing but black sand and tiny gold flakes in our pan. One day, an older prospector came by our hole to chat. He told me where I should dig based on his experience. Later that day we found a small “picker,” which is what you call a tiny gold nugget that is big enough to pick up with your fingers.
We were doing almost exactly what the 49ers did during the gold rush. Instead of iron pans, we used plastic pans, and unlike them, we were not trying to make a living from it.
It turns out that most of the gold is still there, undiscovered. The early miners took the easy gold that they could find near the surface. It is back breaking labor with little payoff to keep digging and looking for the deeper gold. I enjoyed it because it was a challenge and a treasure hunt.
We graduated from panning to setting up a sluice in the water. The next stage was learning how to metal detect in the Mojave desert – which meant getting out there in the early hours before the temperatures rose. Hunting for gold nuggets in the desert with a metal detector is called “nugget shooting.” We joined the Prospector’s Club of Southern California, which gave us access to claims all over the region. Then I graduated to operating a dry washer in the desert.
I learned to love the peace and quiet of the dry, desolate Mojave desert. We started finding “color” almost every time we went out.
I wanted to find a good sized nugget with my metal detector before I left California, but it was not to be. On my last attempt before moving, a solo trip early in the morning, I saw some fellow prospectors find a gold nugget just a few yards away from where I was looking. I guess you could say I failed because I never found that fist-sized nugget I was seeking. Instead, I would say that I gained some useful knowledge and made some great memories.
Prospecting mirrors so much of what we do in life. Each one of us is seeking some kind of treasure. There’s no guarantee you will find that big nugget. Successes and failures: they all come with valuable lessons. I look back on the hours I spent digging dirt holes and wandering the desert not as a failure, but as some of my favorite memories.
My friend Mark and I spoke about the topic of failure this past week. After a successful high school and college wrestling career at Oklahoma State, where he was a two time All-American, Mark began his mixed martial arts career with the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting). He did well enough to be picked up by the UFC when they bought the WEC.
When I first met Mark, I noticed that he carried himself differently than most of the guys I knew, and he was open about being a Christian. Mark was not pushy with his faith, but he was setting an example by the way he lived and he was always ready to lend a hand to anyone who needed one.
I trained with Mark for his first fight in the UFC, which he lost. It was a bad loss, but he was back to training within a week. Mark Munoz went on to have a long UFC career and while he never won the belt, he always left the ring a winner. He was voted as “the nicest guy in MMA” by the UFC. I learned from Mark that in MMA, a loss does not equal failure. When you keep fighting, improving and moving forward, you are succeeding, regardless of what the outcome of any one fight may be.
Mark told me that if you have a fear of failure you will fall backward. If you embrace it, you will take away a valuable lesson. We all fail. We have to learn from it and keep moving forward.
Resilience, Adversity, and Desire: A real champion in life, whether you are fighting in a cage, prospecting for gold, or trying to get a promotion in your job, is the person that shows resilience even when they fail. Adversity is something to use to make us better, not break us down. We will all face it, but how we view it and push past it will define us. Desire is what will make you get up each day with determination: study harder, work harder, train harder.
Mark also reminded me that what we speak about every day is what we become, so choose your words wisely.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.