Ways you can look at failure as a gift

Ways you can look at failure as a gift

July 11, 2017 3:00 AM


The Gift of Failure… Everyone hates to fail. Aren’t we all disappointed when we fail to achieve our goal? How can failure ever be a gift?

Here are some quotes from several past outstanding world leaders – highly successful men whom we all have admired and respected:

“Only those who dare to fail can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert E. Kennedy.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill.

These were three great and powerful men who lived during the 20th century, and changed the world for the better. Each looked upon failure as part of a process that can lead to the ultimate success.

Rifka Schonfeld is an acclaimed educator and education consultant, principally dealing with children. In her recent column in The Jewish Press, a widely read weekly newspaper published in New York City, she describes the qualities a person needs to achieve success in life. Let’s review these as they can apply to the game of poker:

Persistence – as in the children’s story by Watty Piper, “The Little Engine that Could.” (Do you remember it?) Despite its small size, the little engine keeps at its goal – it doesn’t give up. Soon, it manages to reach the top of the steep mountain by repeating to itself, over and over, the memorable words: “I think I can. I think I can,” until it did make it to the other side of the mountain. Persistence.

Grit – Schonfeld observes that “children who fail and then pull themselves up and start again are exhibiting grit.” Like persistence, they have the grit; they won’t give up until they succeed – even if it’s somewhat painful. They are resolved to reach their goal. “Without grit, there is no persistence,” she says. Grit and persistence go together, hand-in-hand, she explains.

Self-control – the ability to control one’s emotions and behavior despite temptations and impulses. Self-control is necessary for regulating one’s behavior in order to achieve goals.

By way of illustration, Schonfeld cites research in the 1960’s called the “marshmallow study” that tested small children on their self-control. Each child was given a single marshmallow and told they could get a second one if they waited to eat it until after the researcher came back to the classroom, as she walked out of the room. Some succumbed to the temptation and ate the marshmallow right away. When the researcher returned, only those children who had resisted the urge were rewarded with a second marshmallow.

The researcher then kept in contact with these children for several decades. Findings: Those children who had managed to control themselves to avoid eating the marshmallow “had more successful marriages, careers, and lives in general.” Their ability to control themselves allowed them to set goals and achieve them.

Curiosity – asking questions (of yourself and others) to better understand why you failed. Then you can avoid those mistakes. We all make them; the successful person is curious, and makes the effort to understand and learn from his/her mistakes.

Self-confidence – Believe in yourself, Schonfeld advises. Have confidence in your own ability. This will help you understand wherein you erred, and how to overcome that problem. Then you can become a real success.

While Schonfeld focuses these traits on young children, they also apply to us adults – and to poker players, as well. You might ask, “How is that?”

Playing Poker

Despite a series of losses, with grit and persistence, avoid going on tilt – no matter what. That can save you lots of chips. Don’t give up. Losers give up! Go the next step along the road leading to success: With curiosity, you can seek out and learn why and how you failed. What mistake did you make? Have you noticed when you are confident in yourself the pots seem to come your way much more often? The more chips you pile up, the greater is your self-confidence.

In that sense, failure can be like a gift. Go home a winner.