We all like failure-to-success stories, right?

With this writing, I choose to highlight a few examples I found which we might recognize  which I think show that failure isn’t always the end of the story.   When you hear “falling upward” you’ll respond

God helps us learn from our failure as well as our success.


J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novels was waitressing and on public assistance when she was writing the first installment of what would become one of the best-selling series in history. The book was rejected by a dozen publishers. The only reason it got published at all was because the CEO’s 8 year old daughter begged him to publish it.

– Rowling said  “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.”

Failing to get angry, being willing to strip away what was not mission-critical, this author chose to persevere. She knew the value of her work.

We must know – really know in our hearts – that we are valuable ~that what we do could have a lasting impact, somewhere, somehow ~

When we focus forward, rather than dwelling in the past, our failures will be a stumbling in the right direction.

We’ll be “falling upward!” God helps us learn from our failure as well as our success.


It might come as a shock, but the man who became what many would call the best basketball player of all time didn’t make his high school basketball team.  Michael Jordan says “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

I think that we can learn to focus forward.

If we stop looking at last week, yesterday or even three minutes ago,  when we said or did that dumb thing – we won’t be able to focus on our losses.

They’ll still be there, in our historical database, where we can remember what not to do again, But we’ll be able to continue with our life’s mission.

After all, every moment we are one step closer to God.

“falling upward” God helps us learn from our failure as well as our success.


Oscar Wilde, the British play-write and satirist was gay during a time when being gay could get you prison time.       And it did.     Unlike the previous examples, Wilde started out privileged, with successful parents. He ended up being quite famous in his own life, but he died an early death as a direct result of his imprisonment.

What is instructive is that he was willing to lose everything ~ and did ~

rather than pretend to be someone that he wasn’t.

Failing to let the “norms” of the day determine what kind of person he would be could seem like a failure. Being in prison could be seen as a waste of time – but I admire Oscar for not hiding.   Also, Oscar Wilde never list his wit – and that’s how we remember him.

A Wharton School professor, Paul Schoemaker suggests that

“Failure is simply a departure from expectations.”

I think that’s what is so special about Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was both hearing impaired and fidgety. He only lasted three months in school where his teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He eventually was home schooled by his mom. In talking about his invention of the light bulb, he said:  “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that do not work.”

We could have expected Thomas to feel defeated, to quit trying.


Looking back at all of these examples,    we see a rich impact where it would have been easy ~in the moment~ to see failure.  In our lives and in the lives of those to whom we are most closely connected it is so hard to look forward..    We can’t see into the future, but we can live knowing – believing – that  all persons   are valuable.

When we stop judging our missteps and what we perceive to be the missteps of others –  we will have moments of learning and learning itself means there’s newness.

Learning acknowledges that there is something we didn’t already know.

Learning it the ultimate “falling upward”

God helps us learn from our failure as well as our success.