I was listening to an interview with Seth Godin recently, and he was asked the question of how does he come up with such great content day after day for his blog. Seth’s reply was simple, yet remarkably insightful, it was “make more bad ideas. If you had as many bad ideas as I do, you would have as many good ideas as I do. Get good at deleting the bad ones. The problem is that people assume their ideas are bad so they delete them before writing them down. If you just wrote down ten ideas every single day, I guarantee you that you would have one that is a world changer, every single day.”
Seth expects that not every idea will be great. Seth expects to fail often on the way to success. But he also knows that failure does not define him, his success does. There is an old adage, failure is not an option. Perhaps this is true, it is not an option, it is essential. Failure at times is simply the pathway to success.
Some failure is intentional. We lift weights to the point where our muscles fatigue and fail, and we understand that this is part of the journey toward greater strength. The failure does not define us. Failure may come through the nine bad ideas in order to find the one great one. The failure does not define us. Thomas Edison, the creator of the light bulb allegedly said when asked about all his failed attempts, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”
There is another kind of failure. It is when we fail to be perfect. When we mess up in some way. All too often in our culture if we make a mistake, misbehave, turn up late to a meeting or say the wrong thing, we are judged harshly. We are pigeon holed. Opinions are formed that are hard to reframe. Yet, to err is human. To make mistakes, to fail is part of the human condition. Whether it be the result of pushing beyond our limits, a moment of weakness, or the result of circumstances beyond our control.
The good news from God is that we do not need to be perfect. God knows we fail. We do not have to get it right every time we try something. If you doubt this, consider the people he invites into his activity. If God was looking for perfection we would have been denied much of the psalms and the best of Israel’s kings, because he would never have allowed David to stay king after sleeping with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah. If God was expecting perfection we would never have had the Apostle Paul who hunted down and executed Christians before encountering Jesus. What about Peter? If perfection was the expectation he would never have been reinstated after denying Christ. The beauty of the gospel is that we are allowed to fail, and God looks beyond all this to see who you are and who you can be.
It’s okay to fail at times. Remind yourself of this for your own sake and the sake of others who fail around you. This is not to say we should not strive to succeed and live a God honouring life, but when you fail, and we all do, God does not define you by it. He sees who you really are and what you can become.