The Secret of Failure

Nobody likes to fail. Failure makes you feel rotten. If you want to reduce your risk of failure, try following these three rules. They will almost guarantee that you will never fail again.


  1. Never try anything new. When you try new things you lack the experience to pull them off perfectly. You’ll probably make mistakes and embarrass yourself. And your chances for failure are quite high. Stick with things you already know how to do well.
  2. Never try anything hard. Attempt only those tasks which you know to be well within your range of capabilities. That way you know that, with a minimum of effort, you can do the job well.
  3. Never try anything risky. Don’t do anything until you’re quite sure it will work. Otherwise you just set yourself up for failure. And never try anything of which people might disapprove. If you do, you may work hard and only receive criticism in return. Criticism is never fun. It makes you feel you’ve failed even if you haven’t. So stay away from risky jobs. Just be content with who you are now. Quit trying to change. Then your chances of failure will be next to nil. Aim at nothing, and you’ll hit it every time.


Of course, as you avoid failure, you will probably also eliminate the chances of any kind of significant success. Easy success carries its own high price tag.  Before you give up on failure you may want to see if you have underestimated its merits.

Picture the great artist painting in her studio. With seemingly little effort she splashes a new masterpiece onto plain canvas. Empty walls surround her, for her works sell as fast as she can paint them. They bear no resemblance to her first work when, at age one, she scrawled a few colors onto a page. Only a mother could love that drawing. In second grade her best horse picture drew great praise from her teacher. But however well her picture compared to the works of other second graders, the art world would have refused the slightest glance at it. As she grew she improved, but for each picture she displayed, she hid a notebook of drawings she wouldn’t let anyone see. As she reached adulthood her work showed evidence of real genius. Yet even then the critics belittled her work, criticizing her technique, magnifying each supposed flaw. Now we see the artist’s great success. Yet her effortless strokes of paint hide each failure that she evaluated and learned from. Without the failures, the success would have been impossible.

Unseen failures are the raw material of almost all success.

A great photographer snaps lots of pictures and only displays the good ones.

A great writer has lots of ideas and knows how to sort the good ones from the bad.

A great musician’s performance is possible only after the many failures during practice.

A great gymnast owes a debt of gratitude to the healing process.

You see, failure also goes by other names such as “learning” and “growth.”  The first attempt at anything new, hard, or risky, is bound to be far from perfect. Yet as we evaluate our failures, learn from them, and do better the next time, we improve our abilities.

Some people, however, stop with their first awkward attempt, assuming that they are not “called” or “gifted” for such a task. In such a case failure can go by no other name.

Is God asking you to do some new thing today? Are your afraid to try because you are afraid to fail? Then you have proven true the adage that says, “Fear of failure is the father of failure.”

On the other hand, if you grab onto that difficult task as a precious opportunity for growth, you may not do well on your first attempt. So ask God to help you learn from your failures and try again. Then you’ll probably find that you won’t do too well your second time either. Yet as you continue to try, evaluate, and change, you’ll soon find yourself learning and growing. You’ll experience the joy of learning to trust God and serve Him better. People may criticize you, but you can know the joy of the Heavenly Father’s smile on you.

You say you’ve tried that before and you can’t feel His smile? Then perhaps you’ve forgotten that God isn’t only pleased with perfection.

Remember the time your toddler gave you the birthday card he made himself?  The drawing was so far from perfect, you couldn’t even tell what kind of animal it was. But you accepted it with pride because he had given you his best work, done with a loving heart. By the time he was ten, however, you expected to see improvement.

In the same way our Heavenly Father accepts our imperfect gifts when we give them out of hearts of love. He does expect our best, however, and He does expect us to improve, to learn, to grow.

If you’re not failing at anything, you’re probably not trying to do anything very significant. If, on the other hand, you’re turning failure into learning and growth, you’ve learned a secret. Sometimes failure isn’t so bad after all.


Fun Bible Activities for Kids in Lockdown/Quarantine

Whether you’re in New Zealand and call it “Lockdown” or in America and call it “Shelter-in-Place,” April 2020 can be a long month if you’ve got bored kids at home. This quarantine can be a huge inconvenience or an unprecedented opportunity, depending on how you look at it. For me, it means at least four weeks when I can spend more time writing.

If you’re a parent with kids at home it can be a great time to connect in a better way. You can also help your kids to connect to God in a greater way. For the rest of April I’m adding daily Bible activities for Kids on my Facebook author page. Why not start now and do the whole thing? This first week involves reading the Easter story in the Bible for themselves and doing fun Easter activities. You can find these daily activities here.


Where is God during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Unprecedented. Life is crazy right now in ways we’ve never seen before. For some, COVID-19 means extra work hours as they perform essential services. Others face economic hardship or stressful hours in isolation. Some are enjoying extra hours with family and a break from normal routine. Personally, the lock-down in New Zealand means I have far less ministry responsibilities and four weeks of time to give to writing my current work-in-progress. It is a gift and I want to use it well.

With all the disruptions we need to focus on God. No matter how dark or stressful the days may be, God is good. He is in control. And he is using the present crisis in good ways we can barely imagine.

If you are locked-down, this is a great time to strengthen your faith in the purposes of God. The Kindle edition of I Survived is now just 99 cents. It shows how five Bible characters survived their disasters and how we can learn from them to survive our own.