How to Make Failure Your Friend
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
I love chocolate. So, I was excited when we decided to visit the Hershey plant in Hershey, PA. The tour of Hershey’s Chocolate World was amazing, but the Trolley Works tour around the historic town of Hershey was inspiring. The trolley conductor told the story of Milton Snavley Hershey, the founder of the Hershey Company and the town that bears his name.
Persistent Milton Snavely
As a Christian life coach, I was fascinated to learn about how Hershey had two business failures before he was successful at starting his chocolate business and how success became a blessing for the small Pennsylvania community.
Hershey was an entrepreneur who believed in taking care of his company’s workers and building a community that would serve them. Out of this belief came his efforts to start the Milton Hershey School Trust Fund and the M. S. Hershey Foundation, a private charitable foundation that to this day provides educational and cultural opportunities for thousands of people, including at-risk children.
It’s a matter of how we react to failure that counts.
The well-known confectioner exemplifies someone who made failure his friend as he learned from his failures, didn’t give up, and was blessed to be a blessing to others. He was especially blessed when he and his wife, Kitty, cancelled at the last minute their plans to sail on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic.
We See Failure as an Enemy
We often look at failure as an enemy, something to avoid at all costs. I believe this is not just a natural inclination, but a God-given drive to be the very best we can be. Failure will happen to each of us at some point and in some way in our lives. The question is not if failure will happen, it is a matter of how we react to it. Will we see it as an enemy or as a friend?
Failure often tells us what we need to know about ourselves, and like a good friend, it doesn’t “sugar coat” its message. It challenges us. If we pay attention to what it’s telling us, it teaches us why we failed, what we should have done differently, and that failure is not the end of the world and life goes on.
Makes Us Dig Inside Ourselves
Whether we fail at times in our personal or professional lives, we have to dig inside ourselves, as Hershey did, and explore where the disappointment of failure intersects with the satisfaction of discovering new opportunities and hope. We have to adopt the mindset that refuses to equate our identity with failure. We fail, but we are not failures.
The greatest example of someone who failed in the eyes of the world and his followers, and who became a blessing and source of hope to others, was Jesus Christ. How could anyone who stood at the foot of the cross believe Jesus was a success?
If only they knew the rest of the story.
Listen to God’s Words
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Also read: Joshua 1:9, 1 Peter 5:6-7, Philippians 4:13
In the Words of Others
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill
“Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.” Thomas Edison
“Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.” Zig Ziglar
Think About It
Recall a time when you failed in your personal or professional life. Describe how you felt at the time. Did you see yourself as someone who failed or as a failure?
Can you cite an example of when you failed at something and it opened up new opportunities? If so, describe how.
Learn about those who failed but later succeeded and became a blessing to others. Consider King David and Elijah, and St. Peter and St. Paul in the New Testament.