The success behind failure

By Bob Boze Bell | May 27, 2009

(I was sharing my research for an article on failure with my husband Bob, and wouldn’t you know, he wrote about it brilliantly on his blog. I consider having married him a success, and I’d be a fool not to just use his fine work. Here it is. -Kathy Radina)

I have bob boze belllong been an advocate for failure, probably because I seem to be so very good at it. When I woke up this morning, Kathy brought me half a banana and a cup of coffee and asked me if I wanted her to read from an article in Psychology Today while I woke up.

Normally, I don't, but to humor her, I said, "Sure, what do you have?"

"All a writer really needs is the self-knowledge to decipher his feelings, the judgment to recognize the original ones, and the courage to make them public."

That woke me right up. I'm always looking for clues regarding my never-ending failure to complete the assignment. The quote is from a guy who couldn't read until he was 11 and when he told his teachers he wanted to be a writer, they laughed at him, because, as he put it, "it was funny to hear from someone who hated to read and couldn't write a simple English sentence."

Philip Shultz is the name of the former kid, and he claims his punishment of being in the "dummy class" and the "loneliness of having so little expected of me, and the pain of being overlooked and forgotten," was exactly what he needed to become, in his case, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet.

"Learning is error driven," Kathy read to me, as I sat up straight and put my hands under my chin like a puppy begging for more. Go on. "A broken marriage, disapproval from her parents, poverty that bordered on homelessness. . .'Failure stripped away everything essential,' [J.K. Rowling] said, …it taught me things about myself I could have learned no other way."

J.K. Rowling. J.K. Rowling. Yes, didn't she write some semi-successful children's book about some Potter kid?

"'I have failed over and over and over again, and that is why I succeed,' said Michael Jordan—as did Oprah, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison, in slightly different words."

"Bubble wrapping kids to shield them from failing does them no favors."

"We should hope, then, for exposure to failure, early and often."

"How can we learn, as Samuel Beckett put, to 'fail better'?"

"'Failing better' boils down to three things:
• It's a matter of controlling our emotions,
• adjusting our thinking,
• and recalibrating our beliefs about ourselves and what we can do in the world."

As a result of this bedside reading, I sprang out of bed and made a vow to fail today like I've never failed before.

"Everyone thinks they're a failure. The only people who don't are the ones who really are."
—Philip Schultz

Kathy Radina, M.Ed. is a counselor in Carefree.
She can be reached at 480-488-6096 or visit

Her husband Bob is CEO of True West Magazine