Every year I’m convinced that God created spring in part to right our attitudes after a tough winter. Of course, both seasons have their positives and negatives; which is worse, cabin fever or grass fever?
In an attempt to be philosophical, I think life in general is a lot like the seasons, offering challenges like winter and times full of hope and optimism like spring. And there are times we all get sick of fighting the battles, especially those that seem never ending.
While you can do a lot to prevent scours outbreaks for example, you can’t do much to make it rain, or to avoid that calving-season blizzard. Similarly, there are those who are just as committed to eliminating our production lifestyle as we are to preserving it; it’s a battle that won’t dissipate anytime soon.
I love to read and listen to motivational people like Zig Ziglar because I truly believe that such an attitude is vital. This week, I’ve talked to several people who are tired of “fighting the fight,” so to speak – one in his marriage, one in the cattle business, and another in a business relationship that’s heading south.
I’ve certainly thrown the towel into the ring before, and I believe some of those decisions were correct. After all, a wise investor is always adjusting his portfolio and investment of time and effort in order to ensure the best return. In fact, perhaps my biggest mistake has been a tendency to fight too long in a losing battle or with a losing strategy.
That said, I think we all have a tendency to view mistakes, struggles, setbacks and obstacles as something abnormal, unique to us, or, even worse, as something that can be avoided. A German proverb says: “The best brewer sometimes makes bad beer.” Herman Melville said it a little more eloquently: “He who has never failed somewhere, that man cannot be great.”
Living in fear of making mistakes, or avoiding conflict and hardship, actually limits one from achieving goals. What’s striking to me is talking to highly successful businessmen and learning of their previous failures; or to that couple with the “perfect” marriage who admit to rough patches that actually had them contemplating giving up.
I could argue that the media and parts of our culture have done us a disservice in a lot of areas, but nowhere more than pushing the concept that lives should be devoid of mistakes and frustrations. My grandfather always said that those who don’t make mistakes get their marching orders from those who do. In studying self-made successful people and those who seem to have acquired happiness, I’ve learned they’ve done so largely by learning from big mistakes and overcoming huge obstacles.
Our emphasis should be on correcting mistakes, not repeating them, and learning from them, while at the same time celebrating those mistakes as steppingstones to success. I’ve come to realize that those I admire most aren’t those who avoid mistakes, but who accept responsibility for their mistakes, learn from them, and quickly adapt and move forward.
The bottom line is no one is a failure until they quit fighting and/or don’t take the time to enjoy life. Certainly some mistakes seem monumental, but none are insurmountable. If the fight is a good fight, there is honor in getting in the ring, and value in preparing for the battle; there’s no dishonor in being knocked down, as long as one learns from the experience and keeps getting up.
Eric Hoffer summed it up: “Treasure the memories of past misfortunes; they constitute our bank of fortitude.” In remembering your childhood, I bet the scars generate as much pride for you as the medals and trophies.