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My heart told me, “You should try that.” My mind told me, “You’ll make a fool of yourself. Plus you could do major damage to your body.”

My heart won out.

Failure’s Meaning

Looking foolish in front of people is a fail for me.

For most of us, failure comes with baggage – a lot of baggage. From an early age I got the message that:

Failure is bad.

Failure means you didn’t study or prepare well enough.

Failure means you aren’t smart enough.

Failure is something to be ashamed of.

Failure hurts so avoid it all costs.

Flowriders and Failure

New experiences that look enjoyable but come with a high risk of failure are to be avoided.

Case in point – on a recent holiday I was contented to be a spectator at a Flowrider – a surfing simulation failure waiting to happen.

Clearly, some of the users were experienced. They appeared effortless in surfing the waves. Others were novices who barely got their feet on the surfboard before wiping out.

Here’s what I discovered:

1. Everybody falls. The most skilled riders would try new tricks and eventually each one fell. Falling is not failing – it’s a part of learning.

2. After my first wipeout, other riders were encouraging and offered tips on how to succeed. When I finally “got up” after repeated falls, applause and high-fives greeted me. Riders from San Francisco, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, New Jersey and the Bronx were in this together.

3. The gallery wasn’t watching for me to fall. They weren’t even paying any attention to me. They were focused on their friends, cell phones, cameras and other much younger, buffer surfing bodies. Looking foolish was only in my head.

4. Flowriders bond like family. On a cruise with nine thousand people there may have been less than a hundred riders. Riders are given a wristband to indicate they’ve signed off on the risk waiver. Wherever riders met on the ship there were high fives or knowing smiles exchanged.

Worse Mistakes Than Failure

Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation – the creative machine behind Toy Story 1, 2 and 3, Monsters Inc. and Inside Out – says,

“If you aren’t experiencing failure then you’re making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it.
And trying to avoid failure by out thinking it dooms you to fail.”

Failure Rules

Fail and learn.

If you don’t learn something every time you fail then all you’ve done is failed. If you learn something, then you’ve grown.

Fail often.

Fail at surfing.

Fail at socializing.

Fail at making friends.

Fail at work.

Fail at business.

Every time you fail and learn you get better at figuring out how to succeed.

(1) “Creativity Inc.” p. 109

APPLICATION: What have you been afraid to try? What risk have you taken recently? Take a risk and leave a comment below. Thank you.

I write to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 44 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vincent and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers


  • Raymond W Low says:

    I just wrote a letter to my partner about my failings last week before this blog was published.
    It was about my commitment to our relationship.
    I told her I’d fail in many aspects because I am human but the main part was that I’m not a failure because despite all the failings in many dimensions of being in a relationship with her, God drove me to learn from it, pick myself up and keep trying new ways to learn from a failing. As long as we are trying and learning about that fail, we’re good Making mistakes forces us to learn from it. As long as we keep learning from our mistakes we haven’t failed. Failure is the function and result of giving up, it is denying the fact that we can make it. Not giving up is a brand of mental fortitude.
    Commitment to our relationship is not a one time one-off event, it is a sustained longterm program where a person needs to recognize that it’s okay to fail as long as learning g takes place and it doesn’t repeat itself. Of course there are some mistakes that truly are deal breakers. Those are not the types I’m referring to lol!

    I’m going to be strapped to a snowboard this weekend. I know eh. My instructor told me prepare to fall lots and fail lots but get up and learn from it on the mini bunny slope….I get it Bob. High 5s!

  • Carole Schlachta says:

    Fail? Big part of my life. Still try to climb over my situation.
    Good is faithful! He is always there to pick me up.
    Thank you

  • Bob Jones says:

    Love the thought of you on a snowboard on the bunny hill. Thanks for commenting and good to know you are growing in your marriage.

  • Bob Jones says:

    Risking. Falling. Failing. Learning. All a part of a healthy life.

  • BA says:

    FAIL – First Attempt In Learning.

  • CD Mayo says:

    Love the FAIL acronym BA!

    Bob, you’re so brave to try the surfing! I too hesitate to try new things because failure means all the same things you’ve described. My perception of others noticing my failure is certainly overblown. Most people have better things to worry about than my failures!

  • Jen says:

    Although I am a teacher with 26 years of service, I always wanted to be a lawyer. I just had an interest, but when the time came I didn’t apply (even with an eager uncle to foot the bill). I am 48 and often wonder what it would’ve been like. So now I wonder, but clearly too old.

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