Saturday, February 21, 2015

From Failure to Failure

by Beth Vogt @BethVogt

"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." -Winston Churchill
People like to talk about success—they like to bandy about different definitions for it. Success is this. Success is that.

And they’re all usually talking about something as far from failure as you can get.

I’ve been reading Alton Gansky’s book Imagination @Work. (Alton’s a friend and a colleague. I admire him. Even if I didn’t know him, I’d recommend his book. It’s like a series of “here’s what I’ve been thinking about” conversations with a witty, intelligent guy.)

But back to the topic at hand: failure.

Alton poses the question: What would you do, if you knew you could not fail? (That is a topic for another blog.)

I answered his question by writing this question in my journal: How do you define failure? 

And then I wrote:

success–less than

And by that I mean that what appears to be success in one person’s eyes can feel like a failure in someone else’s.

Say, for example, I land a book contract.

But I don’t earn out my advance.

Or I don’t win an award.

Or I don’t get offered a second contract.

Or I don’t ______________ (fill in the blank).

It’s the whole “being nibbled to death by ducks” experience. Turning success into failure because it wasn’t good enough.

But Beth, you say, Winston Churchill was talking about success — and defining it as facing failure enthusiastically.

I know. And I love his definition.

But Churchill got me thinking. And so did Alton. We need to enthusiastically face both our failures and our successes and not let the little duckies (dare I name them comparison and envy and disappointment?) nibble them all to pieces.

In Your Words: How do you define failure or success? And how do you face them with enthusiasm? 

Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” A nonfiction writer and editor who said she’d never write fiction, Beth is now a novelist with Howard Books. She enjoys writing inspirational contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. Connect with Beth on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or check out her blog on quotes, In Others’Words.


  1. Thank you Beth for your post. "We need to enthusiastically face both our failures and our successes and not let the little ducies" I remember when I was in the Navy and one of my supervisors was harassing me because He did not want a woman in a leadership role. He failed me on my testing and said, "she does't have all her ducks in a row" I was not a a believer at the time; However I did take this principle and became the first female supervisor for my crew. Although I am not a feminist anymore, I stick to being enthusiastic even when I seem to miss the mark, It glorifies God and shows we are leaving the outcome to him. Thanks again

  2. Thanks, Beth, for an interesting post. I love the point of the “duckies.” Maybe they are supposed to be fresh water remoras that suck the bad stuff away or at least make us stop and think. Again, thanks.

  3. I learn more from my failures than my successes because I rarely examine my successes. On the other hand, I pick my failures to death, analyzing what happened, how I can do it get the picture.

  4. You're so right, Beth! I've failed to reach the goal so many times, but when I finally did, it was sweeter than if it had happened in the beginning. I am also more confidant than I would have been back then. :)

  5. Love your thoughts! Your ideas just settled down in my heart. :) Thank you.

  6. If you have seen a project through from the beginning to the end and have learned in the process, then you've succeeded. I can't tell you how many people say to me, "Oh, I always wanted to write a book..." I'm too polite to reply, "Maybe--but you didn't, did you?" Another favorite of mine is, "Oh, I have a great idea for a book..." Then the person proceeds to tell me, thinking that I should do all the hard work for him or her. It takes a lot of courage to overcome your fears and put yourself "out there." I'd qualify that as personal success.

  7. What we think is falling short of a goal might be a small success in itself. We have to celebrate each of these along the way in order to achieve greater successes.

  8. I love the example with the ducks! :) Can picture it in my head because I've felt the nibbles! From the time I was little, a duck named "not good enough" has waddled after me! I never quite knew why. But thanks for the "image". Ducks scatter if you turn and are bold enough to run at them. :)

  9. Thanks Beth. I would have to define failure as not growing in some way. And I think if we all use a similar definition there would be few, if any, days when we fail.

  10. Nice post, Beth. Thanks! Defining success, I think, is something every author needs to do for themselves because we face not achieving it nearly every day. Personally, I want a t-shirt that says "Embrace Failure". To me, embracing failure is achieving success.

  11. Excellent article, Beth! Thank you, Dianna