Music and the Spoken Word: ‘Failure and success’

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given Jan. 12, 2020.

Many decades ago, author and clergyman Henry van Dyke wrote a classic tale about a wise man named Artaban from the mountains of Persia. He said of Artaban, “All through his life he was trying to do the best that he could. It was not perfect. But there are some kinds of failure that are better than success.” (see “The Story of the Other Wise Man,” published in 1923, page xiii)

It’s a comforting thought because all of us have failures. Life is full of them. Our efforts often fall short of perfection, so we naturally hope that some good can come from the not-so-good moments in our lives. But is it really possible that some of our failures can actually be better than success?

Think about your own life. Have you ever failed to arrive on time because you stopped to listen to a loved one who needed you? Maybe you failed to check everything off your to-do list one day because you noticed someone else was struggling, and you offered to help. Or maybe your “failure” led you to a better approach, a path to success that otherwise would have remained hidden. Valuing failure is about understanding what truly matters.

One woman learned to listen to and appreciate others through so-called "failures." Credit: Shutterstock
One woman learned to listen to and appreciate others through so-called “failures.” Credit: Shutterstock

One woman came to appreciate her so-called “failures” because she learned so much from them. She learned to listen and to appreciate others; she learned in a deeper way about courage, perseverance and patience. She learned empathy and compassion. And perhaps most important, she learned that even when she failed, she was not a failure. Failure is an event, not a person, and without her “failures,” she would not be the person she is today.  

A constant stream of so-called “successes” may have made her a different person. It may be that her compassion could have been replaced with intolerance, her humility with arrogance, her inner strength with a fragile sense of self-worth. She has come to understand that those failures have shaped her life for the better.

The only people who never fail are the people who never try. But if we can learn to see failure differently, then even as we do our best to succeed, we won’t fear our failures, because they can be our greatest teachers and opportunities for success.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, ksl.com, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the tabernaclechoir.org, youtube.com/TheTabernacleChoiratTempleSquare and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules.