Just because you’ve failed multiple times doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It just means, like me, that you’re too freakin’ stubborn to quit.
When I was around 20, I recall I had a dream so big I knew my whole family were going to be rich from it.
I told a person in the extended family about it, and then added, “Of course, I’m gonna share the wealth.”
They laughed condescendingly, and said, “Well, that’s good.”
They were mocking my dream, and we both knew it. Upsetting, sure, but it didn’t deter my aspirations; it just taught me to be more selective with whom I shared my visions and goals.
Sure, I could insert dozens of stories of people who never quit, but one Google search will give you the same information.
Just search for…
“People in the Bible who took a long time to succeed”
“Famous people who failed before they found success”
Some of the stories may prove to be quite uplifting, but, admittedly, are vastly different from mine in one crucial way:
Their tales end in success. “Wine and roses all around! Let’s hop in the limo and go celebrate our awesomeness!”
Whereas my story has been one failure after another.
Yeah, many of us are still struggling. We’re still in the fight. Some of us have been burned so many times we don’t even know if we have the strength to keep going.
Yet we do.
Thus, instead of imparting tales you’ve either heard or can research yourself, I thought I’d share with you the failures I’ve survived. Yes, there have been many, but I’m still going, still fighting.
I cannot quit. I can never quit. I will die trying, and I’m not even kidding.
As a child, my answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was always, “A football player.”
I lived for football. I loved it, and played every chance I got. Neighborhood games, backyard matches with my buddies, flag football in nearby cities with kids I didn’t even know, and on and on, until we moved when I was in 8th grade. Finally, the school I was attending had a high school football team, and I couldn’t wait to play the following year!
I did well in my freshman year as a defensive lineman. One time when we were scrimmaging in practice I managed to get past an offensive tackle—who happened to be a senior—and was lucky enough to sack the quarterback. My coach yelled, “Way to go, Weddle! Proud of you, man! You’ve got more potential than anyone on this team!”
He unwittingly painted a target on my back with that comment, but I didn’t care, I was finally playing football!
I started having back pain in my sophomore year, though, and had to quit after just two years when it was discovered I had advancing scoliosis.
And just that quickly, a dream I’d carried for more than a decade was over.
Moving on and getting older, I set my sights on going into the ministry, enrolling in Central Bible College right after graduation. I was miserable, though, and felt like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. I dropped out after just one year, telling God, “I’m gonna get married, start a family and find a career. When you want me to go back to college, you know where to find me, Lord.”
I worked one miserable job after another for a few years until I decided I’d had enough and joined the Army. At least there I could get a free college education and have a stable income.
But six weeks into basic training I had a mental breakdown, tried to commit suicide, and was given a general discharge.
So it was back to one miserable job after another until I was hired as a locksmith’s apprentice. The money wasn’t good for the first year, but I was training for my new career, and got out of the office and into my own truck in half the time most others had. This was one job I really enjoyed, because I was a professional, but wasn’t stuck behind a desk. I was happy, and began to make plans to start my own locksmithing business one day.
Then my back went out, I was in a wheelchair for a couple months, had to have my first back surgery and my employer decided he couldn’t want to wait for me to heal. They gave me one week’s severance pay and wished me luck.
And just like that, I was once more without a job, a dream or a career.
Another failure. Another hope dashed. Another dream, killed by circumstance and life.
Around the same time I met a guy named Mark, who was an amazing guitar player. I told him I wrote lyrics and fancied myself a singer, and soon we were recording a demo of original, Christian heavy metal songs. And we were good, man. I kept hearing how much promise we had from people who listened to our demo.
Then Mark’s dad passed away, and he felt the need to leave behind everything in his old life, which included our band.
Another failure. Another empty dream.
More heartache. More tears.
Trudging along, I managed to meet a guy named Joe, who was a great writer/creator. His best friend, Jared, was an amazing artist, and we decided to take an idea I had come up with several years before and make a comic book.
The idea was good, and we even sent a few pages to a man who was, at the time, the top Christian “celebrity” in America: Stephen Baldwin. Stephen called me on the phone a couple weeks later, when I was hanging out with the guys, and I put him on speaker. He was getting ready to go on Jimmy Kimmel Live (!) but wanted to give us a quick call to say how much he loved our idea.
“I mean, I really like it, guys. I’m gonna do what I can to get this thing going.”
BOOM! I was off and running. A real celebrity liked my stuff! He believed in my dream!
I was off to the races, baby! Nothing could stop me now!
As time went on, however, Mr. Baldwin stopped answering my calls. Finally, after many months, I spoke to his assistant, who gave me the bad news:
“Stephen has decided to pursue other interests, but wishes you luck in your endeavors.”
My creative team eventually splintered, all of us limping away into the darkness.
Another dream, murdered by fate. Now, that one hurt, I’m tellin’ ya.
So I kept working, kept taking college courses, eventually graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree in Communication, a mere 21 years after graduating high school. I went on to get a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, but never stopped dreaming about doing something creative. I wrote poems and short stories here and there, just to keep my creative juices flowing.
When my son started following in his old man’s footsteps and writing poetry, I decided to put together a collection of our work. I worked hard on it for many months, and decided to self-publish our book on Smashwords, a website allowing writers to offer their work to others for free or a small fee, without having to go through a mainstream publisher.
At long last, I came to a conclusion: “I’m a poet,” I said one morning to myself, and laughed at the thought.
Trey and I released our book, I Bleed Dark, on Smashwords for $2.99, and waited for the money to start rolling in. But months went by and…nothing. So I decided to reduce the price to $1.99.
After a few more months, I decided to throw in the towel and put it online for a free download. Last I checked, it had been downloaded almost 900 times.
By the way, you can find it here, if you feel so inclined: https://d2jt48ltdp5cjc.cloudfront.net/users/40988/uploads/60c80c59-7789-4df0-8fed-37c143bc2253.pdf
I was depressed for a few months, at one point deciding to put together a book of short, fictional stories. I didn’t have enough material for a novel, though, and then the muse slunk into the shadows, and I lost my desire to write. I was never able to finish it, so I just kept raising my kids, and eventually my grandkids. I kept working, kept living, kept loving and laughing, but never quit.
I can never quit. I can never stop. I’ll die trying.
Last year I turned 50 years old. I still wasn’t willing to give up on my dreams, but didn’t know exactly what those dreams were anymore.
Then my wife made a suggestion: “We have friends and family all around us who have been through hell, babe. Maybe you should write their stories, like a testimony book.”
“Ha, good idea,” I laughed, “but I don’t do nonfiction.”
Still, the idea would not leave, and at long last, I decided to pursue it.
My book will be released the first of September. I’ll let you know when it does, and we’ll see what happens.
At this point I would like to assert the fact that I’ve learned much from all my failures.
Failure has made me a warrior.
Failure has made me a survivor.
Failure has given me a GRIT, a “never say die” spirit which was unimaginable 30 years ago.
Rather than slaying my passion, failure has fanned the flames of my creativity.
Failure led me to my life’s motto:
Never give up, never give in, never surrender!
As author Arianna Huffington said, “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”
“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete. (James 1:2-4)”
“A failure is not a loss. It’s a gain. You learn. You change. You grow.” — Unknown
And my favorite:
“It is better to make a thousand failures than to be too cowardly to ever undertake anything.” — Clovis G. Chappell, Author
If you’ve failed, I encourage you to not let it stop you. I dare you, in fact, to pick up the pieces of your lifeless dreams and construct new ones.
Never give up…
Never give in…
Failure is only temporary, but GRIT is eternal.
For a life without passion is no life at all.
“The Lord told me to say to his people, ‘When someone falls down, doesn’t he get back up? If someone misses the road, doesn’t he turn back?’ (Jeremiah 8:4)”
Keep dreamin’, my friends…