The Nobel Prize Winning Dunce (or Why Failure is Never Final)

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(Picture: Hans Gertwitz via Creative Commons)


“One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential” – David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear


Recently I reached the point of burn out. Saying yes to too many opportunities. Taking on too much. Not sleeping enough. I sat down and reflected,

“How did it come to this? How did I manage to burn out, yet again?

In some ways, it made no sense. I believe in the principal of sabbath, of taking one day a week to recharge. I know my body needs rest, sleep, and a good diet. I know I need to relax more, and it will allow me to focus better when I do work.

But there I was. Struggling to sleep. Physically and emotionally drained. Having failed yet again to stick to my plan and desire to live a balanced life.

However, one thought kept me sane. Giving me hope.

Failure isn’t final.

In fact, failure is a necessary part of growth.

So often we act like a failure is the end. We judge our accomplishments by whether they meet our – or others – expectations. And it’s good to have high expectations, to have goals we aspire to and values to live by.

But so often we treat them as absolutes, goals to be achieved and marked clearly. If we don’t, we have failed.

And that’s the end.

Even the whole ‘you learn something from failure’ concept appears weak and pointless.

It would be easy for me to give up, having failed yet again to have a balanced life, get fresh energy, to manage my life perfectly, have clear strategy, plans and values for my life to live by. If I thought either success or failure was the end, then I would be very depressed.

We all would. Because we all fail.

If you’ve gone through life and not failed at anything, then you’re very lucky. And if somehow you have made it this far, trust me, it will happen.

There’s was a person born earlier in the 20th century who didn’t read till they were 7 and whose parents thought they were mentally handicapped. But Albert Einstein didn’t let the setbacks and write-offs of his youth hold him back. He became the face of modern science and a Nobel prize winner.

And there’s the author who had their manuscript rejected 12 times before they managed to find a publisher for their fiction books, before one publisher took a chance on the then unknown J.K.Rowling and her Harry Potter books.

And I suspect if you look at the person you admire the most and asked them, they’d all have a story of failure.

You see, it’s not whether we fail or not, it’s what we do with it. It’s how we approach it.

There’s two ways to approach it.

First, there’s the give up approach. Success or failure is everything, and if you fail you might as well give up. End of. Forget it and try something else.

But giving up is worse than failure.

However, there is another approach. Which is to know and trust failure is part of life. To see failure as part of growth. And know it’s never the end.

This way, you know what’s truly important in life. You understand your value and worth don’t come from success or failure, but from your divine identity. The fact you are living and breathing means you are a beautiful creation of God, and are loved and valued infinitely.

Failure is never final. It’s giving up which is final. (you can tweet that here)

Instead of giving up, you look at where you’ve gone wrong, you learn the lessons, make some decisions – sometimes difficult ones – and you see failure as an opportunity to grow.

The chance for a new beginning.

So instead of fearing failure, we can embrace it and learn from it – and it in fact helps us grow into our divine shape.

I realised through my own failure that a serious re-assessment of my life is in order. My entire lifestyle was in need of a restructure. A new strategy and plan was needed. And I only learned this lesson through my failure.

So choose to embrace failure, not fear it.

And what you might find, is that it could be the thing which shapes you into the person you were always created to be.



Can you think of one time you’ve failed in your life? What lessons did you learn?

Have you responded badly to failure in the past?

Do you act like failure is final?

How can you better respond to failure in the future?




Let me know in the comments below!



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  1. Eileen on September 26, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Great reminders, James. I’ve learned so much from my failures and mistakes. I think the biggest lesson I had to learn was to not believe the lie that it’s too late or that I’ve gone too far in the wrong direction. That was a big lie that kept me stuck for years. As long as we get the gift of another’s never too late.

    • James Prescott on September 26, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      Thanks for your comment and encouragement Eileen. Totally agree, that lie is one we can all get caught on. It is never too late – and we need to hold on to that truth. Thanks for commenting & sharing, really appreciate it.

  2. Joan on September 26, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    In my free eBook, I use a quote by Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

    Failure is a necessary part of learning.

    Great post, James – and I love the title!

    • James Prescott on October 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      Great quote Joan, love Churchill. Totally agree failure is necessary to learning, and thanks for the encouragement in the title too! 🙂

  3. Mandy on September 27, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Great post James! My biggest failure (to date!) led to me finding or rather being found by Christ and beginning to understand the blessing of being able to start each day as a new beginning. Everyone has failed, the choice is whether we admit or deny it – that alone determines whether our failings can have purpose.

    • James Prescott on October 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      Agree completely Mandy, everyone has failed, we just need to admit it to move forward. Thanks for commenting, appreciate it!

  4. Ali prescott on September 27, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Great blog James….. very appropriate to the last year of my life. Thank you x

    • James Prescott on October 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      No problem sis, thanks for commenting, means so much. 🙂

  5. […] The Nobel Prize Winning Dunce (or Why Failure is Never Final) […]

  6. Anne Borrowdale on December 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, James. Do you know Carol Dweck’s book Mindset? (Also see I found it really useful for understanding why I’m bad with failure, and for help with seeing failure as something to learn from, the way you describe.

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