Learning from Failure

Learning From FailureWhen I was a child, I would watch an episode of I Love Lucy every afternoon with my mother while my younger siblings took a nap. I loved that show and would laugh right along with my mom. We would later do silly things and imitate Lucy -as if we had our private language. I particularly enjoyed her antics and so desperately wanted her life.

I could envision Lucille Ball with her riches and everyone must have loved her. Being an introvert who repeatedly moved, I was sure she was endowed with marvelous friends and surrounded with an exciting life teeming with parties, extravagance and red carpets. Later, I learned the whole story.

Lucy started with a difficult life as she grew up without a father who had passed away when she was a small child. Her first memory in life was of losing her father. Her mother remarried to a man but the new family was less than ideal for the development of a small child with big dreams to become an actress.

In acting school, she was told to quit. She had no talent and no ability to act. She was tongue tied and awkward. She might as well leave. The school told her mother that Lucy was wasting their time which led to Lucy starting in modeling. This endeavor also ended in failure due to a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. Lucy returned to acting in Hollywood -leaving New York City. She then played a few minor movie rolls, still hoping for something more.

In 1951, I Love Lucy debuted on CBS after Lucille Ball demanded that the network have her husband, Desi Arnaz, play the role of her husband on the newly formed television show. Not only did she demanded that Desi assume this role, but that she would maintain the rights to their show which led to the development of Desilu Productions.

When I learned of Lucille Ball’s tenacity and her life of seemingly insurmountable challenges, I began thinking about all of the ways in which each of her earlier trials in life taught her and molded her into the actress, wife and business owner. Failure does that for us if we don’t let it beat us. There are marvelous lessons to be learned from each experience.

  • Failure provides us with opportunities to learn what doesn’t work!
  • It motivates success and propels one to find newer, better solutions.
  • Failure teaches dedication, persistence and dedication.
  • We learn how to move forward.
  • Our character strengthens.
  • Failure can provide new learning opportunities.

My favorite quote about failure:

There really is no such thing as failure. Yes, things can go wrong or not according to plan, but really there is no such thing as failure because there is always a very good reason why things didn’t work out and a lesson you need to learn. In the long run, whatever happens is ultimately for your highest good (even if you can’t see how that could ever be true) (Possibility of Today, 2011).

As I’ve grown older, I recall the wise words of my father — Never compare your Monday worst to someone’s Sunday best. The adage was simple. It is easy to sit in church and see friends and acquaintances dressed in the best clothes. They look nice. They smell nice. They greet everyone with a smile. In the church pew, we may appear the same, but we won’t compare our best to their best. We’ll be harder on ourselves. We’ll recall what we look like first thing Monday morning with our hair sticking up in weird angles, pajamas eschew, dirty, etc.

Each time I have a desire to look at someone like Lucille Ball and wish I were like them, I remind myself that they have what they have and are who they are because they made themselves that way. They experience failure just as I do, but they have learned from their failures and moved forward, overcoming their challenges.

So what are we going to do to overcome our failures and challenges today?



Bio. (2015). Lucille Ball Biography. Retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/lucille-ball-9196958#marriage-to-desi-arnaz

Possibility of Today. (2011). 10 Things You Should Definitely Learn From Failure. Retrieved from http://www.possibilityoftoday.com/2011/08/16/10-things-you-definitely-should-learn-from-%E2%80%9Cfailure%E2%80%9D/

By Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

2 thoughts on “Learning from Failure

  • November 9, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Yes, comparisons are truly “the thief of joy.” I love what your dad said about comparing your Monday worst to someone’s Sunday best. Failure has surely been a keen instructor in my life. I just wrote about being fired from a job, and how that blow stole my confidence for a time. It’s funny, when I told my teen son I’d lost my job, he shot me with a line I’d said to him in the past, “Everything you need will come to you at the right time.” Of course, I had to believe that I could make some lemonade out of those lemons then!
    Thank you for sharing this great post!

  • November 9, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    I never knew that about Lucille Ball! This was an inspiring post. You are right about not comparing your Monday worst to other people’s Sunday best… and this could also be translated to, “Don’t compare your daily life to people’s Facebook lives! A lot of people work hard at appearing perfect on their Facebook feeds… but we have no idea what really goes on in their house!

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