Billy Joel is a pretty fair musician and singer, but he’s a world-class songwriter. He and I wereborn on the same day, so perhaps that’s why I like his words. One of my favorite Joel lyrics is from the song, “Second Wind,” “You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes, but they’re the only things that you can truly call your own.”
We’re not likely to learn much when we succeed because we think it’s a result of our being so smart. Who wants to think about lessons when there’s so much self-congratulating to do, right?
When we fail, we have more time to reflect on what happened because there’s less celebrating. Use the time wisely; don’t wallow around feeling sorry for yourself. Claim your failures. Remember what Billy said, “… they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own.”
All of the great minds of history were well acquainted with failure. There are so many examples of world-changing discoveries that resulted from perseverance in the ace of bitter, demoralizing failures. Thomas Edison is said to have observed that, “Failure is successfully identifying what doesn’t work.” What if your last failure is actually a discovery of something that no one else knows?
In one of my favorite books, The Words Lincoln Lived By, by my friend, Gene Griessman, I found this Lincoln quote on adversity, “I find quite as much materials for a lecture in those points wherein I have failed, as in those wherein I have been moderately successful.”
So, it’s official: You learn more from your failures than from your successes. And if you don’t believe me and Billy, you have to believe Honest Abe.
I’ll leave you with the chorus to Billy’s song. “Don’t forget your second wind. Sooner or later you’ll feel that momentum kick in.” Think of these words next time you fail.