Failure and Success are Siblings

I failed yesterday. It hurt. It sucked. And I did it on purpose.

Over the summer, after months of nudging by my friends, I picked golf back up. For me, during the pandemic, it’s been the perfect outlet. I get out and exercise, building cardio and muscle by walking San Diego’s hilly courses, but more importantly it’s helped keep me sane from the repetition of elongated stay-at-home orders from COVID-19.

Setting Myself Up for Failure

Back in Michigan I played golf all the time and I’d gotten my handicap down under 10, which for those who don’t play golf, that’s pretty good. So in picking the game back up it wasn’t quite like starting over… it’s more like an unearthing project. I know a good golfer is there, it’s just a matter of putting in the time and hard work to restore that good golfer.

To this point that process has been going really well. I’m learning how to play with a slightly older, less flexible body. (You aren’t quite as bendy at 44 as you are at 34!)

I’ve replaced most of my ancient equipment. I’m hitting my irons well. Driving is meh. Putting is meh. But overall I’ve been starting to play casually and comfortably. And having loads of fun along the way.

But I want to get better. I’m a driven person and “having fun” only takes me so far. I want to kick some butt. Maybe I can’t get back to where I was but I’d sure like to improve from where I’m at because I know what I can do.

Which is why I signed up for a competition yesterday through my Men’s Club.

I knew I wasn’t ready for that. Even though I’ve been playing well under casual conditions, I knew I had no business playing competitively– something I love to do.

And, just as I suspected, I played poorly. I barely broke 100. Which for me is really, really bad. I like to live in the 80s.

High 90s is a major setback.

Even worse, I finished near the bottom. I finished well below what I should have done based on my skill level and handicap.

And it sucked. Big time. Fighting dehydration from a surprisingly hot and dry day, I spent most of the back 9 wishing I could quit.

I knew I wouldn’t play well and I lived up to that hype– and then some.

Simply put, my game wasn’t ready for competitive conditions. The tees were further back, which meant I had to hit more difficult shots, which created more bad results. And my putting game was not ready for difficult pin placements on ultra fast greens, which compounded on itself into a march towards a miserable score.

Failing sucks.

I hated every second of it.

But it was the best thing for me. The absolute best thing.

Failure and Success Are Siblings Not Enemies

Lots of people fear failure so much that they’ll only put themselves in situations where they are certain to succeed.

Frankly, that’s based on self-esteem psychobabble. The idea seems to be that if you play it safe, stick to what you know how to do, you’ll be successful.

I call B.S. on that mentality.

Play it safe and you’ll never really improve. Maybe incrementally, but not by the leaps and bounds you need. Self-improvement is a process of learning new skills and actually putting those new skills into practice.

To know success is to know failure.

Failure is the process by which you create success.

Failure and success co-mingle.

Why would you fear something that’ll make you better? I don’t get that. And I refuse to be a person who fears doing hard things simply because I might fail.

You get better by doing hard things. By sucking it up. No matter what you do in life, when you increase the level of difficulty, you will fail… it’s just going to happen… there’s always someone better than you no matter what you do.

But that failure should send you back to the lab. Failing at something gives you hard data on what needs to improve, motivation to improve, and ultimately makes success at that higher level possible.

How can you be the best at anything if you aren’t willing to measure yourself against others? That fear is why most people never really get better. That’s why they convince themselves that they are doing the best that they can… that they are just having fun in their hobbies.

We know that to get better we need to improve. But few people truly embrace a process of improvement.

Why? ‘Cos they scared.

Smart Improvement

Let me add an important addendum. The concept I’m talking about here is “playing up.” In other words, when you intentionally put yourself in a position where your skill levels don’t match the competition you’re surrounded by– it’ll expose your weaknesses but it’ll also improve you.

Whatever you do, when you play with people who are better than you, you’ll get better.

Yesterday, I had bad results on the scorecard but I hit some really, really good golf shots. The ultimate result was the failure but every moment wasn’t a failure.

The important caveat is that you “play up” every once in while then you take what you learned back to your lab and work on them. Then you go back to “play up” so you can measure your improvement.

That process of bouncing back and forth from your skill level to the next skill level up… I promise you, no matter what you’re working on, it’ll improve you.

And when you get accepted into that next level, when you can compete with people you once couldn’t, I promise you it’ll feel incredible because you’ll know you did that. You didn’t belong there but now, because of your hard work, you belong. You earned it.

But don’t do it every day. If you put yourself in a situation where you’re constantly surrounded by people whose skills far surpasses your own at this moment, that’s a tough ladder to climb and it might make you better or more likely it’ll make you worse. (Just the facts.)

What’s Your Next Step?

A few hours after failing at my first golf competition in a decade I had an appointment down at the driving range. I pre-scheduled it. I knew what was coming Sunday morning so I had a little session at my improvement laboratory Sunday evening.

And you know what? It was hard and it was good. I knew what I needed to improve and I was willing to listen to input from an expert.

For me, that one failure will push me the next 60-90 days of working on my game.

The question I have for you, dear reader, is… what’s your next step? What’s the risk you need to take to improve your game? What fear is holding you back from improving yourself? What step can you take? What can you do or plan today?

For me, for this post, that game is golf. But the fact is I apply this to everything…

But maybe for you that’s your work life? Or your marriage? Or your hobby? Or maybe it’s quitting your job to turn your hobby into a career?

Whatever it is. Don’t fear failure. Just see it as the sibling to success.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.


  1. As concerning the Word of life, Luke 10 section 25-28 says: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
    Luke 18 section 18-25 says: A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
    Matthew 5 section 43-48 says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    In Old Testament, the Jewish people and their ancestors were given the Law to observe. First, What Adam and Eve should observe was that they could not eat the fruits from the tree of wisdom. Then, their son Cain was told that he should not kill. As sins became increased, the laws were also added more. Up to the generation of Moses, the Law in Old Testament was given to Israelites. We know that the Law is good and the Law is used to punish people who commit sins, but people cannot obey the Law because the sinful spirits are in people. Even that we know stealing and giving false testimony are sinful, but greedy and pride spirits in us drive us to do sinful things. So as Old Testament prophesied we need to get rid of our sinful nature from our spirits.
    Jeremiah 31 section 31-33 says: “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
    Ezekiel 36 section 24-27 says: “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
    The prophecies are fulfilled when Jesus begins to teach love. The two greatest commandments are ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Love is above the Law and if people have love they are free from the law of sin and death. People who are full of love will not think about stealing or giving false testimony but are merciful and they feed hungry people or give thirsty people something to drink or invite strangers in or clothe people who need clothes. The Law is for people who commit sins. Nobody will say that he will get reward because he does not steal before. But love is the grace we get. And with love we will get eternal life.
    Romans 13 section 8-10 says: Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
    Luke 17 section 20-21 says: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say,’ Here it is,’ or ‘ There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
    John 4 section 23-24 says: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

  2. Whoa….who is NP? I am using this for a personal meditation, but I would like to give you credit if I ever use it in my training. I mean, crediting NP is like crediting No Person, which is cool & all. But, I’d still like to know you (although it feels like I already do!). ADAM: I’m laughing because I love this failure post better than the previous one I first read & posted upon (it was a 2011 post)! I see the competitive nature in you now. I also see you laying out success plans in your writing. You’re good at leading. Thank you.

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