Fail Your Way to Success

I heard a quote by Tom Watson today which, paraphrased, said that the formula for success is to double your rate of failure.

By that measure, I think I should be wildly successful by now. I recently came through the greatest failure of my life – my marriage. I married an abusive man and stayed with him, partly because I failed to wrap my mind around how truly evil he was, but also because I believed that it was better for my children to have a father, even if I was unhappy in the marriage. In the end, it turned out he was not only abusing me, but our children as well and it would have been much better for me to leave much earlier – possibly as soon as I was pregnant with my last children (only because, if I had left any earlier, they wouldn’t have been born).

I failed by marrying him.

I failed by staying with him.

I failed by not seeing clearly what was truly happening and the harm he was doing not only to me but also to our children.

I failed by giving up my career, which I loved, at my husband’s insistence and agreeing to try to make money from home, while birthing, nursing, raising, and homeschooling 5 children single-handedly, with nothing but obstruction and discouragement from him.

I failed in all my attempts to make money from home which, now that I have clearer hindsight, I realize my husband was actively undermining.

I failed by not taking care of myself adequately and allowing my health to degenerate dangerously.

I failed by allowing myself to be almost completely isolated and trapped within our crumbling home by my husband’s insistence that we were too poor to afford gas for the car, house maintenance, or even food, clothes, or medical care for me and our children.

I failed even during the divorce by accepting a ridiculously disastrous settlement. After years of my ex-husband dragging the divorce proceedure out, his refusing to get or keep a job, his refusing to negotiate honorably with me in any way, and after he made it clear he would rather destroy me than to reach any settlement, no matter how beneficial to him, I allowed him to destroy me, just to end the hell.

Then I failed by putting myself in the power of my abusive brother, who promised to help me during my absolute destitution and illness, following my divorce, in exchange for my taking the disastrous settlement, including over $80,000.00 of high interest debt I had no knowledge was even being needlessly created by my husband in my name, so that my brother could buy our house at a bargain. As soon as my brother had the house, he reneged on his verbal agreements and became openly abusive not only to me, but also to my children. I should have seen that coming. I should have known better.

After that, I failed to find anyone to hire me for anything I could physically do, which admittedly, at that point, was not much.

I gave into the fears instilled by my new doctors, who were insisting I was on the brink of death. I took their useless medications which caused, among other devastating side-effects, deep depression and so much thick mental confusion that I could barely function at all. In that state I alienated my older children, who blamed me for the divorce and for my failure to immediately succeed without any emotional or fiscal support at all from anyone. The only thing I did right was finally ditching the doctor’s medications, essentially accepting my death sentence from them, in order to have some quality of life in my last days.

If failure is the key to success, I should be wildly successful right now.

Here’s the thing…perhaps I am. I am still struggling on all levels in the eyes of the outside world, but I am feeling healthier and happier than I have in decades – since shortly after my marriage. I feel as if my health is improving, almost daily. I am back to doing what I love – writing and preparing my books for publication. I am slowly making new friends, people I value greatly, who are kind, good, loving, supportive, positive, and also striving to help others as well as themselves. I am proud to discover I have as much to offer them as they are offering me. I am slowly building a better relationship with my younger children, even though the older ones, who no longer live with me, continue to reject me, ignorant of the changes I am experiencing. I have a vision of a wonderful, future full of love and prosperity, building a community that uplifts everyone involved, and filling the world with delight and joy. By sinking to a point where I had no one in my life who showed any care about me at all, except God, I am learning that I can trust God. I am, thereby, gaining greater courage and faith.

Each day, in every aspect of my life, I’m improving. Even when it feels like baby steps, it is progress. Just the fact that I am now celebrating hope where, for a while, there was only despair, fills my life with joy. The seed of greatness is growing deep inside me. It hasn’t sprouted so others can see it yet, but I can feel it rising toward the light. I know I’m going to be fine and, as I rise, I’ll lift everyone around me as well.

Tom Watson’s quote, no doubt, meant that one succeeds by being willing to dare to fail, since only in audaciously trying to go beyond our limits, which demands failure at first as we grow and learn, can we eventually succeed. Failure is always a stepping stone to success. Therefore, the quicker and the more you fail, the sooner you succeed.

The fact is that I did learn a lot from all my failures. I learned that I am such an inherently good, kind person that I could not conceive of evil, even while I was living with it. It is said that people cannot see the qualities in others that they lack in themselves. My ex-husband could not see love or kindness anywhere in the world, and I could not see his contempt and cruelty. I learned that I am a great wife – throwing myself wholeheartedly into marriage, with complete commitment. It was wrong to blind myself to my husband’s true nature, but I did so, believing his constant lies, in order to stay fully loving and supportive of my husband. The marriage could never have endured if I had known the truth about him. Meanwhile, under the false illusion of dire poverty he inflicted on us, I proved willing to sacrifice my own hopes, dreams, and even basic needs, for his and for my children when necessary. Of course, I know now that it was never truly necessary, and I understand that a real man of even basic quality would never have allowed my sacrifices, especially when he made none of his own. I should have realized how blatantly inequitable our conditions were. Hopefully, going forward, I will be wiser. As it was, however, I had the opportunity to prove, beyond doubt, that I have, hidden in the depths of my soul, the stuff of heroes. I lived with passion, courage, unremitting love, determination, and a cheerfulness and positivity even in the worst of situations (briefly masked by the side-effects of medications). I had the ability to find or create happiness and good in even the worst situations, to see the good in even the worst of people, and to keep striving to intensify that good for everyone around me. I was married to a man who not only failed to appreciate these qualities, but sought to destroy them, yet these qualities only grew stronger over time. Even during the effects of befuddling and depressing medications, I refused to give up. When/If I am ever matched with a good man, who will support the good in me rather than work to destroy it, and accept the boundless love and support that I have proved I’m willing to give, what glory might we achieve together? I don’t think anything wonderful would be impossible for us. I also now realize that I am capable of being wonderful on my own.

God has given me a gorgeous world, full of a multitude of beauties crowding every minute. God has given me the power to make my own dreams come true, and to help others realize their’s. God has shown me endless possibilities for ways I can turn my life to bringing out and brightening the best of God’s creation. I have only to choose which way I prefer. God has been very kind to me, including by putting me through all I have endured, because I did endure it. I strengthened. I grew. I learned. I gained deeper understanding of the heartaches of others, therefore becoming better able to ease and help them, and maybe even to help heal them. Common wisdom likes to say “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” My marriage could have killed me. In a very real way, it almost did. It was like a forest fire that leaves a scene of utter desolation in its wake, but which fertilizes and clears the ground, setting the stage for amazing new growth.

My past has made me stronger, I think, not so much in making me capable of enduring more, but it showing me how much I could endure, how well I can heal from that, and even more importantly, how I can turn all my suffering to good, in a way to benefit others as well as myself. I still regret that my children were all so badly hurt – so much more than they yet realize – but if I can turn my experiences to good, then they can turn theirs to good as well. We all have that choice, and what we choose makes all the difference. All their lives I have told them, over and over, that attitude is everything. I endeavored to prove it by finding ways to keep happy and cheerful under crushing poverty, even while starving, with a failing body that could not afford medical help. Now is my chance, however, to prove the power of positive attitude properly. Hopefully my children will see and understand, so that they can choose their own health, happiness, love and prosperity for their own lives.

Thank you God for all your endless blessings!

Serving Others is the Key to Personal Well-Being

With a week to go to Mother’s Day, 2022, I have been presented with yet another example of how I have failed as a mother.

One of my daughters was tasked with writing a paper about what she needs for her well-being. She was left to narrow down this broad topic to a smaller thesis, then write 800 words supporting it. She turned to me for help, so I started trying to get her to think about what she needed in her life to count herself as healthy and happy. She came up with food, sleep, and entertainment. It seemed to me there was a lot missing in this list, but I thought I could work with it.

“What do you need in order to get enough food, sleep, and entertainment?” I began.

She immediately jumped to someone to give her food, the proper conditions for sleep, and things to entertain her. I stifled my disappointment because, despite my urging, so far she has never had a job. She has never earned anything for herself. People giving her things is all she knows. As sad as I was that this was her first thought, it should not have been a surprise.

“What if no one is willing or able to give you these things? How do you get them for yourself?”

Her next thought was that she would take them. Stealing, or manipulating, to get things from other people who would generally be unwilling to give to her, seemed to her a good, healthy thing to do.

I balked, horrified. I pointed out that if people only stole from each other, eventually there would be nothing left to steal. Also, by stealing and manipulating, a person destroys all potential for building love and trust, which are necessary foundations for creating healthy relationships. They also lose honor – not only from others, but also in their own eyes.

She argued that stealing and manipulating are skills, and she could feel proud of her skills in this area (which, I desperately hope, she has not yet proved). She insisted that, even if her victims no longer trusted, respected, or admired her, other thieves and liars would be impressed by her thieving and lying skills. I suspected that other thieves and liars would tend more to be threatened rather than admiring, if her skills in this area were truly good. Also, what is the point of gaining the approval of dishonest, thieving people, assuming they would even give it? These are not people you can trust or with whom you can build any kind of healthy relationships. They are not people you want to have in your life at all. Whatever you may ever gain, by any means, is subject to be taken away from you by such people. Furthermore, if you are making yourself into someone no one else, including other thieves and liars, would ever want in their lives, how can that make you happy? What have you gained?

Her answer: food, sleep, and entertainment. She insists that this is all she wants. All my talk about honor, self-respect, and healthy relationships seemed worthless to her.

I switched to a new angle. I started to talk to her about how we build healthy lives in this world – how we earn money to honestly provide for ourselves the basic necessities plus, hopefully, a bit more. It all comes down to service. We assess what we can do, look to see what others need and want, and try to establish connections between our abilities and their needs and desires so that we can best serve others. We provide goods or services that others need and want enough to be willing to pay us for them. Economy 101: we serve others.

This is the way we not only make money to meet our own needs and desires, but it also builds our characters, strengthening the skills necessary for healthy, thriving, loving relationships. Any partnership of any kind – business, friendship, romantic or familial – requires people to be constantly alert to how they can help each other. All good relationships, at their core, are people mutually serving each other. The sole exception to this might be in parental relationships, where the parents only serve their children without any reciprocity. Ideally, however, the love, respect and honor that the children develop from this initial one-way service to them, will not only be paid forward, by them someday serving their own children, but also will make them honored to be able to serve their parents as their parents age, sicken and require more help.

Acquiring the healthy habit of looking to see how we can serve others also builds in ourselves self-esteem and healthy pride. We realize a sense of value in ourselves when others value us – which happens when we prove our ability to help others. The more valuable we become to others, the more valuable we feel in ourselves. This can become an ever-increasing cycle of improvement as we, realizing that we do have direct and real value through serving others, then increase our value to others by expanding our service into teaching others how to improve their own value. The ability to mentor others increases our sense of value and pride immeasurably. It also increases our self-confidence and encourages us to take risks to increase our value in other ways we might not have considered before, perhaps by learning new skills or experimenting with new approaches to meet the needs and desires of others. Wealth, prosperity, and well-being, thereby grow. We become creators of great and increasing good in this world, not only for ourselves, but for everyone.

Serving others is the true key to building our personal well-being on every level. The fact that it also helps build well-being for others is a joyful side-effect. Ultimately, serving others is identical to serving ourselves. Through this, we benefit the entire world, as well as ourselves.

This is a lesson I have striven to teach my children every day of their lives from birth. Sadly, today, I discovered that at least one of my children wholly rejects this lesson. I cannot see any path to happiness, health, or wealth for her by refusing to accept this fundamental truth, but none of my arguments could make a dent in her insistence that serving others sounds horrible to her. I am not only frustrated, but deeply grieving.

She insists on following her father’s path in life, despite the obvious proof that it has led him to nothing but the destruction of everything good in his life and the completion of his own, self-created misery. I could find no way to save him, despite my continuous efforts throughout our marriage. I learned, the hard way, that you cannot help someone who steadfastly refuses to help himself.

All I could give to my ex-husband could never be enough for him, because he had chosen to be a taker in life rather than a creator – which is a direct result of scorning the attitude of serving others. Lacking the capacity to create for himself, he was always going to be insecure in taking what he needed from others. All resources are a zero-sum game to those who lack the ability or desire to create more but, rather, content themselves with only taking. Knowing that his resources were limited to what he could take from what others created, he could never have enough to feel secure, no matter how much he stole or lied to take, or even how much was lovingly given to him, since what is given can be withheld or withdrawn.

Sadly, I did not realize how handicapped he insisted on making himself until too late. I also failed to realize that he was so severely damaging his children by teaching them his self-destructive attitudes and undermining the healthy attitudes I was trying to teach and demonstrate. Even so, I cannot comprehend why any of our children would model themselves after him. Simple common sense should serve to make obvious the failure of his teachings, even if his entire life were not the testament to their failure that it now is. Why, then, cannot my beautiful, bright, healthy daughter, full of unlimited potential, see the clear need to avoid following her father’s path to her own destruction?