“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Sir Winston Churchill

Lynn, a friend of mine, and I were conversing about what we might do once we grew up. She is a writer and a former student who has become a mentor to her former teacher and we sometimes bounce ideas off of each other’s very hard heads. She is wishing to expand her craft’s business while I am wishing to expand my very successful business of doing nothing of real importance since retirement. During our conversation I used the trite and overused “What have you got to lose, the worse you can do is fail.” As I thought about certain misspent aspects of my own life I realized that failure can be the best thing to ever happen to you.

Early in my teaching and coaching career I decided I was going to be a head football coach and for ten years worked hard to achieve this goal. Once I had attained my “dream” job, I don’t believe anyone could have worked any harder to be successful but success from a won and loss standpoint was elusive and after four years I was relieved of my coaching duties. I…WAS…BITTER! To say the least. I was deeply wounded and went into my next job with a good case of the “feeling sorrys”. I had all types of excuses for my failure, some valid…some not so valid, but as I look back with my twenty-twenty hindsight, I really have no one to blame but myself. To “somewhat” quote the cartoon character POGO, “I have met the enemy and it is me!”

I worked hard for the next couple of years to get another head job, updated my resume’, applied for many positions, interviewed for a few and was even offered one which I was forced to turn down because they could not promise a position for my beloved, Linda Gail. Once we invested in our “little piece of heaven” located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, I knew my dream of becoming a head football coach again was pretty much done although my “hope did spring eternal” for a time.

As I chatted with Lynn, my young mentor, it dawned on me how fortunate I had been not to have been successful at my dream job, a FACT I was already subconsciously privy to but had managed never to have consciously expressed. I would not have met Lynn, who compelled me to begin my writing, or a thousand other former students and friends who would become the subjects of much of my writing. I would not have found a niche as a baseball coach. I MIGHT not have found a best friend. I MIGHT not have become a better teacher. In other words, I MIGHT not have become the person I am today. I MIGHT have been a better person had I been able to stay on my CHOSEN pathway but on this pathway, the one chosen for me, I am SURE I have led a successful and rewarding life, EVEN IF IT IS JUST IN MY OWN HEAD, which would be the only head that counts.

This thought compels me to think of other failures, primarily in the areas of love and marriage. One failed marriage led to another and then I finally got it right. What if the first one had not failed and my daughter and grandchildren had never been born? What if the second had not failed and Linda Gail had gone on to find her “one true love” somewhere else. What if…? What ifs makes your head want to explode but I find it only fortifies my belief that out of our failures positives can be found even if we have to wait a bit to realize it. I am going to reframe from saying anything about Phoenixes rising from the ashes because my failures are pretty minor compared to those of other folks I know …okay I guess I did say something about Phoenixes rising from the ashes.

Lynn, thanks again for the conversation you started among the many voices in my head. As I said tritely before, “Spread your wings, the worst that can happen is that you fail” …and maybe that is not the worst thing in the world after all. To be trite again, “Life is what you make of it!”

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life and humor try