The opportunity of failure

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.  ~ Henry Ford

I have been thinking about how differently I would do things today if I had my life to live over. I would do things more intelligently. Twenty-twenty hind-sight would make the journey so much easier, but beginning again after a disappointing event (a failure) is so important. I love what Dr. Laura Schlessinger used to say when someone would call her on her radio showABC_atm_dr_laura_100813_wg and begin to go through all their failures before asking her advice. She would interrupt them and say, “Well, are you still doing that?” If they said “no” then she’d say, “Ok, then, you’re not that person anymore. You learned from your mistakes. Let’s begin here.” I loved that about her. The beginning again was what mattered, and it was expected that it would be done more intelligently. If not, she had little patience.

I was so impressed this week when I saw this TED video of a 15-year-old young man who was doing pancreatic cancer research


He said there were 8000 proteins he had to test. He found the right one after 4000 tries. One could say that Jack had 4000 failures. Maybe, but with each ‘failure,’ Jack began again, more intelligently. He had one less protein to worry about and was that much closer to a cure. Wow!

That made me think of Thomas Edison. I went to Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan for my PhD. Near Detroit is a place called Greenfield Village. Greenfield Village was put together by Henry Ford as a tribute to America’s Industrial Revolution.

…the property houses a vast array of famous homes, machinery, exhibits, and Americana. The collection contains many rare exhibits including John F. Kennedy’s presidential limousine, Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’s Theater, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, the Wright Brother’s bicycle shop, and the Rosa Parks’ bus. (Wikipedia)


As a student, I went to Greenfield Village when I wanted to take a break and just get completely away from my studies for the day. It was there I would stand in the houses, labs, inns and workshops of the greats of the Industrial Age of America. Henry Ford went around the nation and collected the memorabilia and replicated the sites so they would all be in one place. In Thomas Edison’s workshop (above), I learned of the arduous task of making the electric light bulb a reality.

[Edison] sent his assistants all over the world to find possible filament materials. At great expense, they brought back more than 6000 natural materials which Edison worked into his experiments alone or in combination (

If Thomas Edison had missed the opportunity to begin again after each failure, we may not have electric lights to this day.

I have one last thought. There are times, when God is working out His plans, that it looks, in the natural, like we are failing. On Palm Sunday, Jesus was riding high with the hosannas and palm branches waving, but by Good Friday public opinion had made a 180 degree turn. On Good Friday the crowds were yelling, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Jesus could have thought He was a failure because He couldn’t get the people to see God’s way, but He knew better. He knew He was not a failure. He knew He was in the center of God’s will even though everything around Him was dark. He knew this was the opportunity given Him to save the world.

Today I am thinking that some of us may be on our 4000th try at something and the way ahead may seem very dark. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are failing. We may be right in the palm of God’s hand and we may be right on the cusp of resurrection.

He is with us,


3 comments on “The opportunity of failure

  1. “He knew He was in the center of God’s will even though everything around Him was dark.” That is profound! Pondering…..

    • Dark Night of the Soul by Catholic mystic St John of the Cross taught me the incredible refinement that can come for those who can endure the night. I no longer fear trials. I don’t enthusiastically embrace them, but I am better able to read their purposes in the walk of the believer. Jesus role modeled a dark walk and I am just beginning to see what He was trying to teach, just a smidget, mind you, but it is a beginning.

  2. I think we are more in the palm of God’s hand when we are obedient in the hard times, in ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ so to speak than when we are basking in His light. Luke said it is no big deal to be good, kind, sweet when that is what we are receiving (6:33) . It’s the one who can say Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do, when a nail is driven through his hands that really ‘gets’ it. No?

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