Why I’m Not Ashamed of My Failures

I’ve had plenty of failures in my life — in business, in sports, in achieving my goals. But I don’t spend much time ruing my failures. I may think about them for a day or two, analyzing what I did wrong. But afterward, I hardly think of them at all. And if I do, I don’t feel badly about them. They seem like interesting experiences that happened to someone else — the person I was before I made the mistake. If anything, they amuse me. They really do.

I’m proud of my successes. And I’m ashamed of my personal failings — e.g., my tendency to do something every year at a big Christmas party that I regret the next day. But I am not ashamed of my failures.

There is a difference between failures and failings. A failure is falling short of a goal you set. A failing is falling short of a standard you set for your behavior.

Overall, this attitude serves me well.

The shame I feel when I betray my dignity is constructive. It helps me elevate my behavior in the future.

The pride I feel in my accomplishments motivates me. I don’t dwell on them. I try not to brag about them. I use them to tell myself, when challenged, “You’ve done this before. You can do it again.”

The amusement I feel when I think about (or am reminded of) past failures is good too. It keeps my ego in check. And it makes it easy for me to try again.

If you want to accomplish great things in your life, you must be willing to set goals that are big enough and new enough to change your business, social, cultural, or personal environment. But since they are big and new, you run the risk of failure. By taking pride in your accomplishments and being amused by your failures, you will always be motivated to do more. And your mind will be clear to focus on the hardest thing: not making a fool of yourself at the next Christmas party.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]