Failure is an event, not a person

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Melissa Somers
  • 92nd Operations Support Squadron First Sergeant
To fully understand the title, it's important to also understand and accept that failure is inevitable. We all experience difficulties, road-blocks, set-backs and failures in our never-ending goal toward achieving success. However, all of these are simply notches in the wood or mile markers on the road to success.

Have you ever been given "an opportunity to excel" by your supervisor or commander and thought, "I can't do this... I'll fail." That thought process is normal. What makes us the greatest Air Force in the world is our determination to fulfill our third core value, bringing excellence to every task we take on, every suspense we're given - everything we do. If we're putting forth our very best effort all of the time, we won't have any time to worry about failure. When presented these opportunities, see them as just that - opportunities.

Go about completing them with a positive attitude. We may not always get to choose the tasks we must do, but we can choose our attitude while doing them. Be an optimist! Pessimists see the difficulty in every opportunity; optimists see the opportunity in every difficulty. Norman Vincent Peale said it well, "Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. The way you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it...."

Another key point to remember is that Airmen are innovators, creators and go-getters. We rely heavily on our junior Airmen to bring fresh new ideas to the table; and for our junior NCOs to bring their experience and flexibility to foster those fresh ideas and help them succeed. We need our senior NCOs to continually motivate their personnel and guide them through the entire process. We look to our officers to provide leadership and top cover. Inevitably there will be failures along the way. However, if we're not failing every now and again, it's a sign that we're no longer being innovative. Remember that success is almost always incremental and it is from failure that we learn how to better ourselves. With every setback there's a chance to come back! Denis Waitley once stated, "Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end."

All of us have failed at something, maybe even failed someone, but this does not make you a failure. Failure is an event, not a person. To overcome feelings of being a failure, stop comparing yourself to others. They have failed too. Instead, focus on your internal victories - what did you do well, what achievements were made and most importantly, what did you learn? We become better when we learn from our failures. It's also important to that we don't blame others for our own failure(s). John Burrows stated, "A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame somebody else." I call this blame-storming. Some people will waste so much valuable time blame-storming and pointing fingers versus taking responsibility and brain-storming a solution to the issue.

Finally, we can't be afraid to fail. It's what you do next that matters. Don't waste time and energy trying to cover up failure; instead, learn from your failures and others and move on. Choose to become better instead of getting bitter. See problems as opportunities, convert defeat into victory and view change as a way to start something new or make something even better. That is success.
Stay strong, be resilient and always have gumption.