Failure is a word most people do not like to think about, and a process no one wants to experience. Why? It deflates the ego, tears down the self-esteem and stifles energy! Then . . . why write about it? Frankly, because I am tired of running away from it, pushing it deeper and deeper into consciousness and more importantly, a bit fearful of admitting to myself what it actually is.
Failure is a slippery concept–one that is changeable, illusive and temporal. What is failure to one person may be success to another. How does one define failure? How does one define success? Who determines whether one fails or succeeds? This article seeks to find an answer to these questions–answers that meets a universal concept, irrespective of citizenship, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic level.
What is Failure?
Miriam-Webster describes it as “a failing to perform a duty or expected act.”
Finally, Webster-Dictionary.net defines it as “Want of success; a state of being failed.”
Commenting on failure, Richard Mendelson puts it this way:
Failure is a very personal and intimate concept. Some people consider themselves a failure if they do not earn a certain amount of money, while others consider themselves a failure if they do not reach their long-term personal goals. The main issue of all people that experience failure, is the need to grasp that it is not a singular incident. Failure is a process that occurs on many different levels before one realizes that it is occurring. Failure is a systematic breakdown of our focus on a mental, emotional, and finally a physical level.
While respecting and agreeing with most of the points made by each of the above sources, my concept of failure is very simple: it is a state of mind–mortal mind, predicated on past, present and future mental suggestions and beliefs.
An example of this can be seen in my early childhood experiences. My earliest recollection is having my father and mother praise my rendition of memorized poems and speeches. I had a quick mind and a firm memory which enabled me at the age of five, to stand before the community audiences and belt out speeches with emotion and confidence. I spoke them as though I had written them myself. Consequently, I earned the title of “being very bright.” This title followed me into every aspect of my life–so I expected to succeed in everything that I did. Being a “big fish in a small pond,” I had few chances of not coming out on top. This boosted my ego and gave me a false sense of success.
However, my college experiences were totally different–a larger pond with several fish–many labeled as “super fish” compared to my ability to deliver. Therefore, a sense of doubt and fear permeated my thinking. Even though I succeeded in many ways, when I failed . . . according to my assessment, I was devastated. It was not an overt devastation, but a quiet, mental stress that ate away at my self-confidence. This developed into an incessant desire to please–get to the top spot, or come in first place! Less was emotionally unacceptable. And when I succeeded, I was ready for the next challenge . . . with the same tenacity and drive.
What is Success?
Success can be viewed as the opposite of failure–the ability to meet expectations emotionally, mentally and physically. Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have stated:
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”
While I am not sure the source of this quote, I comply with its comprehensiveness and clarity. I view success also as a state of mind. “Whoa!'” you say, “How can both success and failure have the same definition–a state of mind?”
That is the focus of this article!
In order to follow my train of thought, it is necessary to discuss my concept of “mind.” Mind has two connotations, one mortal and the other immortal. Immortality comes from the One Mind, God, and never ceases to express goodness, perfection and success. The other stems from the human mind–thoughts made up of beliefs derived from sensuality–the five physical senses. Human emotions and experiences, past, present and future constitute the foundation of success for mortals, in which money, power, prestige and selfishness are the yardsticks used for measurement. They delve into history and point to role models that they deem successful, and emulate those models. Unfortunately, they follow the steps those models took in order to get there. Thus, hate, greed, prejudice, superiority and destruction repeat themselves.
On the other hand, the one Mind, God is the source of all intelligence, wisdom and understanding. It never deviates from inspiration, perception, awareness and spiritual freedom. Mind is All. There is nothing around it, above it, or beneath it that constitutes disharmony, for God is all-knowing, all-power and all presence. It is a mind of peace, calmness, beauty and happiness. Failure never reaches its borders!
Knowledge of Success
What are the basic ingredients of success? A knowledge of them can help to focus thought in the right direction.
- Success is having a heart that constantly expands and overflows with love–a spirit that sees substance as faith, hope and the abundance of spiritual inspiration and regeneration, and a vision of Soul where human sense cannot dwell, nor human actions survive.
- Success is standing firmly in truth when everything around you seems to be falling apart–where friends deceive, relatives denounce, and disease takes away those you love.
- Success keeps you forging ahead when every fiber in your being is standing still. It enables you to climb to the mountaintop of divine conviction, cross the swirling waters of depression and emerge from the depths of fear and bitterness.
- Success hollows out the pathway of humility that Jesus laid when the doubts of Thomas place weights of hate around your feet.
- Success is that divine influence that acts in consciousness, and makes and keeps one morally strong.
- Salvation is success! It is the Holy Ghost, the Comforter that speaks to consciousness and dissolves the darkness and instills the light. Anything less than these . . . is failure. Highlighting this vision of success are words of Mary Baker Eddy: “Let it be understood that success in error is defeat in Truth” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 239).
What is Failure?
Most dictionaries label failure as the opposite of success. For example, Webster says it is “the state or fact of being lacking or insufficient; a person or thing that does not succeed.” I see failure as placing one’s trust and love in a material substance such as money, material goods and the physical body. It is an incessant desire and clamor for world power, recognition and approval. Defining failure this way, places one in a constant state of change.
To illustrate . . . failure could be having a million dollars in money and property for one section of the world, but in another, this achievement measures success. At a personal level, success could be based on purchasing a house with 4000 square footage and 10 upscale amenities, but once the individual earns more purchasing power, that house may no longer measure success. So the individual sees the need to purchase a house of 10,000 square footage with 30 such amenities before he considers himself successful. Thus, success and failure are not constant–never reaching a sense of fixity or stability. This lack of stability deviates from the intelligence of Mind, which creates everything eternal and unchangeable–never deviating from prosperity, beauty, power and strength.
Thus, success and failure cannot be measured in terms of mortal and material accomplishments, only by divine reflection and expression. In the spiritual realm of thought, success demonstrates Life, Truth and Love, and failure measures death, error and hate. How does one then, reconcile the human with the divine? The answer: he does not. He seeks understanding of the divine, and the human experience reaches a sense of harmony because of this understanding.
What happens in consciousness that allows one to reach this realm of thought? Transformation. The human psyche cannot comprehend the power of divine wisdom and understanding. Once it is achieved, the emotions, doubts, lusts and desires of the flesh disappear and the person gains a sense of peace. He is undisturbed by money, power, prestige and human measurements. He knows humanly that they exist, but concentrates on divinity. His goals are different . . . he seeks to demonstrate his highest sense of life, which has an entirely different yardstick. Emphasis is placed on qualities not quantity, good not evil and joy not sorrow. Thus, he does the things that generate these elements of thought in consciousness. Every person knows money, prestige and human power do no bring happiness and joy . . . nor do they establish health–a divine state of mind. Some of wealthiest people in the world are the unhappiest. Greed steals their peace, power inflates their ego and dis-eased thinking inflicts diseases on their bodies.
At the age of 21, I longed to have $1000 in a savings account and certainty that it would not be needed to pay bills. That day came at age 22. What did I do? I set another goal . . . two to three thousand dollars in the account … and the amount kept getting higher and higher. When each limit was reached, another one or new goal took its place–one to purchase a house, get a new car, go back to school, get income property, and the list kept getting longer and longer. With each achievement, only momentary happiness was experienced, and then . . . I would be in mental strife to achieve the next goal. This defined my life until I began to realize just how illusive success had become, and searched for another definition of it that had a lasting effect.
It took years to conclude, that success built on a material foundation would never cease to be changeable, and if I desired success to remain constant, its substructure would have to be spiritual. It was only then that I grasped some semblance of peace, and … it continues to grow. Have I ascended to the highest level? No, but I getting there, and am convinced that my footsteps are walking in the right path . . . even if the destination is remote.
The quote attributed to Emerson has the right idea–establish success from within, and that which is without falls in place. Over the many years of struggling with my interpretation of success and failure, I have reached a level of faith, confidence and security in the knowledge that success is a state of mind –a mind that is “at one” with the divine Mind, God, and it is acquired by identifying elements that measure it–elements that bring serenity, comfort, dominion and a state of excellence. Nothing mortal or material enables me to reach that state, and so I labor for righteousness. Every person has to identify, respect and arrive at his own sense of success … and when he has done so … measure it from the inside out, and not from the outside in. In so doing, he will “imbibe the spirit of Christ, … and …add continually to his store of spiritual understanding, potency, enlightenment, and success” (Ibid, p. 462).