Winning by Losing

By Dan Wilcock

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to explore how character and mindfulness influence a life lived well. Last week the center published an article called Failure Makes You a Winner that rang true to me.

The power of failure is available to anyone flexible enough to learn from it and not give up. Failure is a teacher. It guides us, corrects us, and, when encountered with the right frame of mind, strengthens us. It is encoded in any form of mastery built on apprenticeship, which is a form of controlled failure.

Failure also sets the context for life’s sweetest victories. I believe that Tom Petty had it right when he sang “even the losers get lucky sometimes,” (if I ever owned a minor league baseball team, that song would play every night.)

Finally, failure sometimes saves us from dead ends by deflecting us from them. Didn’t get that job, you coveted? Well, you just saved yourself years of misery. Couldn’t score those drugs you wanted? Well, at least you’ve still got those brain cells. This is an area where grace can enter our lives.

That doesn’t mean that failure’s not tough and it doesn’t hurt. That’s why I agree with the author of the article on failure, who writes “heroes share a key quality: GRIT.”