Success Waits Behind the Veil of Failure
in relationships and in life

Just as Valentine’s Day points to everybody else getting roses and chocolates and diamonds, it can point to your own relationship blunders. Before you give yourself a failing grade, though, consider the bell curve. How many people in your class, or circle of friends, really have the quality of relationship you want? Next, look at what you’ve learned from what seem like failed relationships. Now, how much of what you’ve learned, are you applying? As you calculate a grade, don’t forget to factor in the inherent stumbling and practice required to learn a new skill. And if you want to earn a better grade, take heart and continue reading.

You don’t have to learn through trial and error; you can pick up a book or take a class. Still, experience is the test! Fortunately, you get to keep taking it until you’re satisfied with your score. “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate,” said Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM. Granted, there may be people who don't appreciate this concept, but don't be troubled by them. They don’t have what you want; and they’re likely stuck in a rut. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is admit that what you’re doing isn’t working. That only feels like failure if you’re at a loss for what does work, or you don’t believe you can do it!

What most of us have labeled “failure” is really just a veil for success. We’re so afraid of failure, though, that we run from it; and when we do, we also run from success. What we’re really running from is pain. Failure seems to confirm our worst fear—the mother of all fears—that there’s something wrong with us. We have to face that fear in order to find the truth that we are innately good. Likewise, we have to face failure, or risk failure, in order to find success.

Learning with the inherent risk of falling down is a prerequisite to triumph. This is true in business, in science, and in relationships. So, value the fall, see what’s beyond it, and move towards it. Think about how a baby learns to walk. You put your hands out and coax him to hold on with his tiny fingers. You woo and cheer until he takes his first step. Then he falls down. And you say, “Bad baby!” right? Of course not, you praise him and encourage him as he stumbles to his feet again. You know he’s learning to walk just the way he was intended to! And you’re right there supporting him every step of the way.

Show yourself the same compassion and understanding, and don't wait too long to get back on your feet. Continue trying—not desperately, but learn from your chance encounters and friendships, and be open to the possibilities. Do it with increasing knowledge of yourself, what you want, and how to get it. I started writing about relationships in 1998, not because I was living the dream, but because I refused to let go of it. I was determined to get it right. Over and over, readers would tell me, “I know you’ve been there.” I was still there, a fervent student, up to my neck, trying to figure it out—for me and for them.
“The great question is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure,” said William Shakespeare.

As long as you haven’t given up, you’ve earned a passing grade. Fan the embers of hope, get a second wind, and start again. Honor your efforts; believe that the universe will also honor them. Press on. If you are to succeed, you must be willing to start again as many times as it takes. The greater the success, the greater the risk of falling. It’s easier to succeed at a mediocre relationship than the dream, but that’s not what you want. What you do want, what you have always yearned for, is possible. It is within your reach. It is already yours; you’ve just yet to claim it.

Learn—what doesn’t work and what does work. Look at what you’re doing right. Yes, there must be something, probably a whole list of things! Learning takes the sting out of the inevitable fumbling and prepares you for the next step. To be ready for what lies ahead, you must cover the ground between here and there! You can’t skip the skinned knees and still learn to walk and run and do cartwheels. Nor can you continue falling down indefinitely without learning from it!

When you’ve learned what you could from a relationship, and it still isn’t working, it’s time to move on. You need not count it as a failure, though. It’s a step toward success. In the familiar words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” You won’t have to try 10,000 ways to communicate with your partner before finding one that works. You will have to be quiet and listen. You probably won’t have to date 10,000 prospects to find one you want to keep. But, odds are you’ll have to date more than 10. People interview more dog sitters than that!

So when a blind date shows up, and you realize you couldn’t possibly be interested, don’t see it as a waste of time. See it as one of x number of dates before you find the one. Just be your best self and have fun. Be open to learning something about yourself and relationships … and you will. And, who knows, you just might decide to keep somebody you were ready to toss aside! If not, just take the next step forward, knowing that you have been a good student.

Don't be embarrassed or discouraged. Keep at it. It’s liberating to do what you want to do without concerning yourself with what other people think. They can’t limit you; only you can do that. And as you discover the glory of self-verification, or simply being true to yourself, you will realize that there is no other success. Your success does not lie in a partner or anything outside of yourself. Nor does your failure.

The only way to “fail” is to get scared; and you don’t really have anything to be afraid of. The falls are just part of the learning process; and you get to keep trying until you get it! You are not defined by how many times you stumble or how hard you fall. You are not defined by status, money, or looks. You are the source of strength you call on when you’ve taken your worst fall. You are what you’re made of, what’s inside that cannot be stripped away or lost.

“The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is; and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God-seed into God,” said Meister Eckehart.

Find the Godseed, and you have found your authentic self. Choose to align your behavior with the Godseed, and you know life’s only success. You know self-esteem, peace of mind, joy, meaning, truth, beauty, oneness, the fullness of love, everything good. And having moved beyond the veil of failure, you can watch the fairytale unfold—on Valentine’s Day and every day. It might not look the way you imagined it would look, but it will feel better than you imagined it could feel!

Sidebar: Lifting the Veil of “Failure” to Find the Only Real Success

1. Stop thinking in terms of “failure” and think in terms of learning what works.

2. Redefine “success” as: Learning what you’re made of and being true to it, which is simply being authentic.

3. Resist the temptation to look for salvation in some thing or person outside of yourself.

4. See learning as your passion. You are uniquely designed to be a student of life and love.

5. Trust that you were intended to learn from consequences, and that you are incredibly resilient.

6. Move through the obstacles and storms and detours, trusting your inner guidance and where it will lead you.

7. Realize that your ultimate lesson is to know and love yourself well; and that in doing so, you will also know and love others well.

8. Relax and be you, knowing that you are love … and love cannot really fail.

Author's Bio: 

Jan Denise is a self-esteem and relationships consultant, the author of Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You’re Not (Health Communications) and Naked Relationships: Sharing Your Authentic Self to Find the Partner of Your Dreams (Hampton Roads), and the columnist who penned the nationally syndicated “Inside Relationships” for ten years. Denise conducts workshops, speaks professionally, serves on the faculty of Omega Institute, and consults with individuals and couples nationwide. She is silly and deeply in love with life and her husband Sam Ferguson. They live in McIntosh, Florida, where their home in the woods is open to others as a sanctuary and retreat center.