The “pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-or-I’ll-kick-your-butt” post

I saw this on Facebook today:

What Mr. Shaw has to say almost seems like a contradiction.  I mean, how can making mistakes be honorable and useful in life?

Some people just cannot stand failure.  For those folks their life equation goes something like this:

Trying + Failure = I’m a loser at life.

Because in their mind, failing is wrong.  No doubt, life, or their parents, taught them this.  These are the same people that say “Win at any cost” or “Failure is not an option.”  Those people are devastated by failure.  Those people sink into depression and despair and bitterness.  Those people are actually failing in life.

We don’t want to be THOSE people.

I could quote you how times geniuses of the last 100 or so years failed at something, but you already know about them (How many times DID Edison fail at making a useful lightbulb?).  But, let’s talk about failure and what it REALLY is, and what it really is not.  Let’s get out our dictionary, shall we?

fail |fāl|verb [ intrans. ]1 be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal : he failed in his attempt to secure election | [with infinitive ] they failed to be ranked in the top ten.

  • [ trans. ] be unsuccessful in (an examination, test, or interview) : she failed her finals.
  • [ trans. ] (of a person or a commodity) be unable to meet the standards set by (a test of quality or eligibility) : the player has failed a drug test.
  • [ trans. ] judge (someone, esp. in an examination) not to have passed.

2 neglect to do something : [with infinitive ] the firm failed to give adequate risk warnings.

  •  [with infinitive ] behave in a way contrary to hopes or expectations by not doing something : commuter chaos has again failed to materialize.
  •  ( cannot fail to be/do something) used to express a strong belief that something must be the case: you cannot fail to be deeply impressed.
  •  ( never fail to do something) used to indicate that something invariably happens: such comments never failed to annoy him.
  •  [ trans. ] desert or let down (someone): at the last moment her nerve failed her.

3 break down; cease to work well : a truck whose brakes had failed.

  • become weaker or of poorer quality; die away: the light began to fail | [as adj. ] ( failinghis failing health.
  • (esp. of a rain or a crop or supply) be lacking or insufficient when needed or expected.
  • (of a business or a person) be obliged to cease trading because of lack of funds; become bankrupt.


  • a grade that is not high enough to pass an examination or test.

PHRASES: without fail absolutely predictably; with no exception : he writes every week without fail.

ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French faillir (verb), faille (noun), based on Latin fallere ‘deceive.’ An earlier sense of the noun was [failure to do or perform a duty,] surviving in the phrase without fail.

Interestingly, the antonyms to fail are “pass (as in pass an exam), thrive, work, improving, support.”

Okay, enough of that.

What failure IS:

  • Not reaching your goals
  • Falling down and scraping your hands and knees on life’s asphalt
  • Things not going as planned
  • An option
  • Losing a battle (not the war)
  • A learning opportunity

What failure is NOT:

  • The End of World (as you know it)
  • The losing of the war
  • The last chapter in the book
  • The period at the end of the sentence
  • The Grand Finale
  • A reason to quit trying

The two premises I want to focus on are “failure is a learning opportunity” and “failure is not a reason to quit trying.”  With very few exceptions, I firmly believe every problem has a solution and a way out.  Sometimes it takes more work to get there than other times.  Which is where “failure is a learning opportunity” comes in.  Seeing failure as a learning opportunity requires a certain outlook on problem-solving and critical-thinking.  It requires  you to believe that failing at something is OK.  As in, it’s OK.  As in, don’t be such as crybaby, or a wuss.  Because when you try something and fall down and scrap  your knees, you can pause and take a moment and and ask yourself, “What did I learn from this experience?” and, “What can I do differently next time it try?”  Then, you CAN try again.  And again. And again. And again.  Until you find the solution to your problem.

If you quit the first time you fail, what will have gained?  In my book (and apparently George’s book too) you have failed.  With a big, fat capital “F”.  If you’re happy being stuck there, then by all means, stay there.  But, if you’re like me, living a half-life kidding ourselves that we are REALLY living, when in fact we are not, is not an acceptable lifestyle choice. If deep in your heart of hearts you know that you need to keep going, then pick yourself up by your bootstraps.  Or, I’ll kick your butt.

Just ’cause your bigger than me doesn’t mean I can’t kick your butt.



So tell me, when have you failed at something?


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