Failure is Not Fatal

When I arrived in New York City last summer, I felt like Ali in his prime. I headed into the big city with full force, believing I was ready and ambitious enough for whatever tough stuff it was going to toss my way. I was caught up by the speed of the flashing lights that danced on the sidewalk near Broadway. I was swept away by the hustle and bustle of Grand Central. I thought I was ready to handle the city that never sleeps.

And then I fell flat on my face. Less than a few weeks after my arrival, I was out of work and scrambling to make sense of my personal career loss (or what seemed like one at the time). It was as if I had figuratively tripped on my Manolos and face-planted in the middle of Times Square for the whole world to see. My face felt bloody with permanent bruises to remind me of my first career flub as a recent graduate. At the time I felt scared. But I’d soon come to realize that the moment was simply that – a moment.

What I recognized in the wake of what seemed like disaster was that I had been running so fast, so eager to reach success, that I forgot to remove my shades and simply be. I forgot that on the path to my dreams it was important to live a little. To hustle, but always remember to take things one day at a time.

It’s so easy to stay knocked down, to remain there on the ground where no one can see you. It’s easy to get discouraged after you feel like you’ve failed, especially so publicly.

But I’m here to tell you one important thing I hope you carry with you for the rest of your life: Failure is not fatal. We must never be afraid to fall down. Don’t be afraid to get knocked down, to get the door closed in front of you, to be told “hell no,” “never chick,” “naw.” What truly matters is that you know how to get back up and dust yourself off.

In fact, I believe it’s important for everyone to fail. We must get to know failure intimately. I don’t mean just see what failure is like from a distance or believe that you know what it means for other people to fail. You must sleep with failure – knock boots with it, breathe it, smell it, taste it and hear it. Go ahead and hit rock bottom. Because once you know failure inside and out, you’ll have subconsciously trained your mind how to overcome it. Each and every time. Because you will fail many times in life; it is the nature of our mortality.

Let’s face it. We’ve all done stupid things, fudged up or faced drastic situations – some of us more than once. But it is through failure that we grow and begin to recognize ultimate truths about ourselves that we may have never seen before those hardships. Often our hugest setbacks are setups for something greater, something more powerful and visionary than we could ever know. We must be willing to see the positive in the negative, to “turn our shit into sugar,” as 50 Cent would say, and think of ways to rise above adversity or what we may believe are our worst challenges. God never gives us anything that we can’t handle, and what may appear to be a roadblock may actually end up becoming the most defining moment of your life.

Martin Luther King Jr. Oprah Winfrey. Michael Jordan. Barack Obama. These are well-known individuals who had to overcome adversities, even their own personal failures to reach success. Some were fired. Some were told “no.” Some just didn’t perform as well as they thought they could. But if any of them had quit or allowed their pitfalls to define them, they never would have achieved greatness.

Often God needs us to go through the storm, get completely drenched and be tested before we can see the sun. It’s always darkest before dawn. There is always healing after the pain.

The bruises of failure may or may not be visible to the whole world, but why hide a scar? No matter how distorted the truth may get at times, be willing to own up to your mistakes. But more importantly, be willing to forgive yourself and move on. No one likes the girl on the team who whines about her losses. Rather we celebrate those who are valiant and continue to go for the gold, even if they’ve fallen off the beam 100 times. It is those who are able to fashion a lesson from their mishaps who are valorous and often end up being the strongest contenders in life. Dare to be you. Own every part of yourself and who you are, both the good and the bad. And remember – you’ve had more success in life than failures. Let the good points override the tough ones.

No matter what happens to you in life, no matter how many times you fail, don’t be afraid to get up. You can always face-plant in the middle of the busiest section of Manhattan. Many people are falling down just like you. But a real woman knows how to dust herself off, get back up and keep on moving toward her goals and dreams.

The platitudes are still true: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Keep your head held high, stay strong and never allow failures to be the death of you. If you do, you’ll never truly realize your true greatness and potential.

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  1. EST. 1986

    What doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger. What doesn’t kill you causes stress, low moral and depression.

  2. Crystal

    Perspective either sees the glass as half-empty or half-full. Half-empty (stress, low moral, and depression) Half-full (wisdom, strength, and courage to try again)

    • EST. 1986

      For some people, life does not allow for the perspective of the glass being ‘half-full’.

    • EST. 1986

      I’m not surprised that what I said hasn’t been well received. Just remember – life is not the same for everyone.

  3. Natalie B.

    Maybe not half-full, but if you can survive homelessness, abuse, disappointment, loss, poverty, and anything of that ilk, then you’re stronger than most, and if you can hold on to that—surviving what would kill, or in the very least, destroy most people, then you can do whatever the hell you put your mind to.

    In less than 10 years I have lost most of my immediate family; my dad is the only one left. I had to start all over again, but I’m here. I did it once, and even though it sucks big time to have to start over from scratch, I’m doing it again, I’ll do it again. I know I’ll do it again because I survived witnessing my grandparents lose their lives to horrible neurodegenerative diseases, I survived an abusive relationship, my mother’s sudden death, and my brother’s drug addiction. I survived job loss, and almost losing my home. Yes, it almost got the best of me, and several times I thought that my circumstances would end me, but then I remembered the worse day of my life—the day that my mother died—and that I woke up the next day, that I survived, and it put everything into perspective, and I got my ass into gear. I’m not sharing this as some sort of cliché, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” bs, but I feel that if most people would examine their failures in the light of surviving them, they would know that not only are they stronger for surviving them, but because they did, they can do whatever they set their minds to.

  4. Overseas_Honeybee

    Enjoyed your piece a great deal. The Creator does have a way of testing you for real :) Going through it now.

    Wondering if you stuck it out in the NYC or did you find your purpose in a new place after you got back on your feet?

  5. Thank you so much for writing this. It was something that I needed at the moment. I started two years ago going into the direction of making a career change into the medical field to only getting accepted into it, but not being able to continue because I couldn’t handle the course load. I came close to failing (I had two F’s and a C but when I entered the program I had a 4.0). Because I came close to failing, I decided (and was advised) to leave before I flunked out of the program. I went into a state of depression and felt loss like I was missing something from my life. I’m trying to continue as best as I can now. I’m coming to realize that I may have to go into a direction that I’m not happy to take career wise, but I’m living at home to save money and I am trying to move back out onto my own. I’m now back attending church on the regular and I am in the process of going back into therapy to deal with issues that I am experiencing. Again, thanks for writing this article at a much needed time in my life.