Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

A Thank You Note to Failure

note to failure

Dear Failure,

It’s Thanksgiving today—a day set aside for giving thanks. I am trying my best to be thankful for everything in my life, not just the good things. So I wanted to send you a note to say, “Thank you.”

Remember when I was a kid and I had that basketball goal set up in the driveway. It wasn’t one of those Wal-Mart goals with cinder blocks holding it down. It was a solid, regulation size goal set exactly to ten feet. I played almost every day.

You didn’t visit much then. I didn’t lose often. I was the oldest boy in the family and tall for my age. My younger siblings didn’t stand a chance. But when I did lose, I cried. I would run into my room and hide my tears in my pillow. You crushed me.

So I would try to explain you away—
he cheated,
the sun was in my eyes,
the wind was affecting my shot,
the ball didn’t have enough air,
the teams weren’t even.

I would say anything (believe anything) to remove the feeling of your presence.

By my teenage years, I had discovered a way to keep you away—never lose. If playing basketball, win. If playing checkers, win. If entering a math competition, win. You felt like death, so I avoided you at all costs.

I didn’t lose often. I was good at sports. I made straight A’s. I learned to avoid games I couldn’t win. Your visits were a rare blip on the road of success.

Then the road took a sharp turn.

My senior basketball season ended with a crushing defeat.
My university professors were not as impressed with me as my high school teachers had been.
My plans grew hazy and uncertain.

College was my first, real, prolonged encounter with you, failure. And I hated it.

But now, as I look back on that time, I am thankful.

You squashed my pride.
You redirected my future.
You toughened me up.
You pointed me towards God.
You weakened my fear.
You taught me how to win.
You produced future success.

So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for you. You have shaped me more than success ever did.  You are a scalpel in the hand of a benevolent surgeon.

Thank you. I am sure I will see you again soon.


p.s. Last night when my car slid on the ice and I dented my neighbor’s car door and spent an hour filling out paperwork with the police—classic. I’m not ready to say “Thanks” yet. Hopefully you’ll hear from me soon.

p.p.s. Go easy on everyone today. A burned turkey or casserole can really ruin the day.

[If you liked this, check out 16 Benefits of Failure]

Original Photo Credit Lotus Carroll (Creative Commons)

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