Off the Pulpit

The Failure of Success

People often speak about the lessons one can learn from failure. We know that failure can teach you humility, resilience and a certain acceptance of the inequities of life. There are also lessons to learn from early success, both good and bad.

Dostoevsky had a gambling problem. The great novelist was often in debt and yet could not prevent himself from losing still more at the gambling tables. His compulsion has often been attributed to the fact that the first time he gambled, he succeeded spectacularly. That success in the end, proved a failure.

The same happened with some nations who were early successes in containing COVID. Confident in their procedures, they discovered, to their dismay, that the virus was waiting for them to relax, and then it struck with a vengeance.

Beware instant and early success. It has proved the opposite of a blessing for childhood film stars and prodigies in a variety of fields. John Stuart Mill learned Greek at 3 and Latin at 8 and had a breakdown at 20. Sometimes failing, struggling, renewing and grit are surer paths than the dazzle of triumph.