Nearly three decades ago, as a young pastor just launching a church, I read Dr. John Maxwell’s book “Be All You Can Be.” A chapter title got my attention: “Failure is Not Final.” The first paragraph was new information for me as a young leader. Dr. Maxwell said, “on the average, successful people fail two out of every five times they attempt something and unsuccessful people fail three out of five times.” That’s not a lot of difference, is it?
My hobby is photography. I’ve been intentionally upping my game in recent years to turn my photography into a self-supporting hobby. I have a website where people purchase my images for the walls of their homes and offices. I sell a line of my naturescapes on greeting cards in three gift shops. I was recently selected as the Resident Artist for our area tourism bureau. At the end of the three-month assignment, I will be paid a stipend after the marketing department chooses at least 15 (but not more than 20) images I’ve captured. These photos will be used for their world-wide advertising to potential visitors.
I’m just a week past the half-way point of the three-month resident artist appointment. I’ve taken 2,348 photos so far. However, I’ve only selected 150 photos that I believe are good enough to submit to the tourism bureau for review. That’s just 6.4% of the total. Another way to look at it, 93.4% of my photographic efforts have failed entirely. And, if I take another 2,000 photos in the last half of the residency period, I might have 300 photos to submit. But they are going to choose only 15 or 20 at the most. That’s only .03% to maybe .045% of the images captured. Does that mean more than 99.9% of my images are failures?
Recently, I read that Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired, said, “95% of [all] results in creativity are failures.” He was addressing the creativity used in art as well as science and technology. So, it looks like my numbers are pretty close to normal. However, I don’t consider over 4,000 deleted images as failure. Photography is a passion, and making images brings me joy. I enjoy telling a story, trying to depict a scene in the best possible way, the science of color and light, the art of photography, and don’t forget playing with camera equipment. Every bad image teaches me something new, reminds me of something I forgot or gives me a picture of something the could be improved.
I’m reminded of an old Nike commercial featuring basketball legend Michael Jordan. In it Michael says, “I have failed over, and over, and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” Here’s a link to the commercial. It’s worth watching!
I’ve been told that I am talented as a photographer. I’m not sure if I believe all that much in talent. I wasn’t born as some photographic savant. It took me years and years of reading, a lot of experimentation, taking a class or two here and there, a five day workshop with a professional and countless failures to get to where I am today. And there’s a very long road ahead of me.
Here’s what I’ve been learning since back in 1987 when I first read Dr. John Maxwell’s book. Concentrate on success and not the failure. Treat failure as a friend. View failure as a moment. Change what needs changing. Successfully fail. Never quit because of failure. Keep swinging the bat. Keep shooting the ball. Failure is important. Failure is necessary. Failure is not final.
QUESTION: What additional things have you learned from failure? Our readers would love to learn from you. Share it below. Thanks!