From the Top November 2019

Today's Failure is a Lesson in Tomorrow's Success

LTC Benjie Bender, Texas Military Department Chaplain

LTC Benjie Bender serves as the Chaplain for the Texas Military Department
LTC Benjie Bender serves as the Chaplain for the Texas Military Department

Failure does not shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you. Sir Edmund Hillary made several unsuccessful attempts at scaling Mount Everest before he finally succeeded. After one attempt he stood at the base of the giant mountain and shook his fist at it. “I’ll defeat you yet,” he said in defiance. “Because you're as big as you're going to get, but I'm still growing.”

Every time Hillary climbed, he failed. And every time he failed, he learned. And every time he learned, he grew and tried again. And one day he didn't fail. 

What mountain are you looking up at today? What seemingly insurmountable obstacle are you facing? How motivated are you to overcome it? 

When people lose motivation to accomplish a goal or grow in a certain area of life or launch out into their dreams, it’s usually due to one of two reasons. It’s either not that important to them or it’s important to them, they just don’t believe it is possible. They believe it is a mountain too high to climb. 

I really can’t speak to the first reason, but let me give you a strategy for the second: take it one step at a time.

Growing up, I always thought it would be fun and adventurous to ride my bike across the country.  While I never rode from “sea to shining sea,” the summer of my junior year in college I did ride 1,100 miles south from Indiana to Florida and then turned right and headed west to Louisiana.  Up until that fateful first day of the journey, I had never ridden more than 27 miles at one time. Our first campsite was over 60 miles from our starting point.  At mile 40, I was done! Exhausted. It was a little over halfway through our first day, and I was already wanting to quit.  I remember thinking, “Gee, only 1,060 more miles to go! I’m never gonna make it.” That is when a new strategy struck me. Rather than giving in to defeat, I began instead to think, “I may not be able to make it all 1,060 miles, but I can make it to the top of that hill!” And when I would make it to the top of the hill I would say, “Alright, that’s what I’m talking about! Now I’m gonna shoot for the stop sign, and then the gas station, and then around the curve.” Until finally four weeks later, I saw the river…the Mississippi river. And one last time I said, “By God’s grace, I can make it to the river.” And there, on the banks of the Mississippi in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I took my last stroke of the pedal. Goal achieved. Objective accomplished. Mountain defeated.

When confronted with your mountain, focus not on what you can’t do but on what you can do.  Eat that elephant one bite at a time. And if in your efforts you fail at one point, all is not lost. Rather, you just gave yourself an opportunity, like Sir Edmund Hillary, to learn and grow. Remember, FAIL is simply your First Attempt In Learning. So learn up instead of giving up. Remember what the Apostle Paul taught the Galatians, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” So in the spirit of Sir Edmund Hillary, “Climb on!”