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Let’s Redefine Failure

In a previous blog I detailed when I joined the ARMY in the early 90s ( I did not graduate Basic Training, after my suicide attempt, and was given a “General Discharge.”

So I blew it, right?

I dare to reply, “In the grand scheme of life, the answer is ‘no.’ I did not fail.”

You may disagree, but let me explain. When I returned home, I spent a couple days hanging out with my family, and getting reacquainted with my lovely wife, Laura, and then decided it was time to go out and make the future happen. You see, while I technically failed, my new attitude was like STEEL grit. I was determined to get a job and work my way up and BE somebody. I wasted not one minute looking back.

I had went from barely being able to do a few push ups, to keeping up with the Drill Sargent in exercises during our “muscle failure” days (before I went to the hospital). I started out having never even held a rifle, but a few weeks later shot 36/40 on the rifle range. I faced the demon called “Suicide,” and had lived to tell the tale. I had made it, and there was no looking back.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” indeed. My Drill Sargent was fond of saying, “Assess, adapt and overcome.” So that’s what I did: assessed my situation, adapted to it, and then set about overcoming it.

Even today, Laura says the person who returned from Fort Jackson, South Carolina was a different person than the one who left. The boy who left would move on to a new job every few months, would call in sick at least once a week, and then complain incessantly when I had to go to work. The man who returned never missed work, and had his eyes set on a career someday, not just a job.

blog 06-26-17 me after army

This picture is one my mother-in-law took right after I returned, and what you see in my eyes is pure determination.

I’d love to say it was easy, but it wasn’t. The only job I could find at the time was at McDonald’s, so I took it and told the manager I wanted all the hours he could give me.

I had only been there a couple months when a part-time Maintenance job opened up on the weekends. It wasn’t much of a raise, but it meant I was moving up, and only had to “flip burgers” three days a week instead of five.

I kept going, eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree, getting a job at a Christian University, and then earning a Master’s degree. I don’t regret the time in the ARMY because it strengthened me, and birthed in me a desire to make something of myself.

EXAMPLE #2: A good friend of mine, who struggles with anxiety, entered a Christian-based rehabilitation facility for his addiction to pain killers. After a few weeks he returned home, saying the facility was NOT equipped to deal with his anxiety issues, as they had originally told him.

So, as with my ARMY experience, in the world’s eyes, he failed. Right?

I would vehemently disagree. When he returned he knew he had the strength to beat his addiction. He dedicated himself to being the best husband, father and son he could be. My friend was so determined to not go back to that facility, he said he would do ANYTHING to stay clean and sober, and not lose any more time with his family, and he has made good on that promise. He has an amazing family, is constantly on the hunt for someone else to help, someone else to bless, and beat his addiction for good. As Laura watched a change in me after my ARMY experience, I noted a “black and white” difference in him.

EXAMPLE #3: A buddy of mine and I decided we were going to create and record music in the mid-90s. I sang and wrote lyrics, and he played guitar, had some recording equipment and a drum machine, so it was the perfect combination. He created the music and I penned and sang the lyrics.

After we recorded six songs, however, our duo fell apart. Nothing ever came of our band, even though I still have the songs on CD.

So I failed, right?

Wrong again. I played my son, Trey (now 18 years old) our songs when he was much younger, and it blew his mind that the voice he was hearing on the CD was his dad. Trey had read some of my poetry, and seemed to like it, so I let him read my lyrics. He just told me a couple days ago, “Dad, when I heard your demo, when I heard your voice and knew you had written those lyrics, and sang all those songs, it let me know making music was something I could do, too. I wanted to be just like my old man. I wanted to start a band.

He’s a better singer, drummer and lyricist than I ever was, which thrills me to no end. I told him if the ONLY good which comes out of all those months spent locked in a spare room with a guitar and a drum machine is him becoming successful with his band, it would have been worth it, even if my songs never see the light of day.

And I say that truthfully, with not an ounce of jealousy.

You see, our failures make us stronger; make us more determined to keep going. Instead of losing sleep thinking about all the times you “blew it,” try and figure out a way you can make it work next time. For you see, our non-successes should make us that much more determined to be successful.

We are glad for our troubles also. We know that troubles help us learn not to give up. When we have learned not to give up, it shows we have stood the test. When we have stood the test, it gives us hope (Romans 5:3-4).

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