Mormons believe God intends for us to become all He planned for us to be and that we are to use whatever gifts and talents he gave us to further God’s plan for the world and for us personally. Of course, failure sometimes happens because life is a learning experience, but when it happens, it’s important we not give up. We can turn to God for comfort and encouragement as we pick ourselves up and try again. Following are some of his thoughts about succeeding through life’s hardships.
No Failure Need Be Final
In our journey on earth, we discover that life is made up of challenges—they just differ from one person to another. We are success-oriented, striving to become “wonder women” and “super men.” Any hint of failure can cause panic, even despair. Who among us cannot remember moments of failure?
One such moment came to me as a young basketball player. The game was close—hotly contested—when the coach called me from the bench to run a key play. For some reason which I shall never understand, I took the pass and dribbled the ball right through the opposing team. I jumped high toward the basket; and, as the basketball left my fingertips, I came to the abrupt realization that I was shooting for the wrong basket. I offered the shortest prayer I have ever spoken: “Dear Father, don’t let that ball go in.” My prayer was answered, but my ordeal was just beginning. I heard a loud cheer erupt from the adoring fans: “We want Monson, we want Monson, we want Monson … OUT!” The coach obliged.
Not long ago I read about an incident that occurred in the life of U.S. President Harry S. Truman after he had retired and was back in Independence, Missouri. He was at Truman Library, talking with some elementary school students and answering their questions. Finally, a question came from an owlish little boy. “Mr. President,” he said, “was you popular when you was a boy?” The President looked at the boy and answered, “Why, no. I was never popular. The popular boys were the ones who were good at games and had big, tight fists. I was never like that. Without my glasses I was blind as a bat, and to tell the truth, I was kind of a sissy.” The little boy started to applaud, and then everyone else did, too (Vital Speeches, Feb. 1983, p. 6).
Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement. Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.
In 1902, the poetry editor of the Atlantic Monthly returned a sheaf of poems to a 28-year-old poet with this curt note: “Our magazine has no room for your vigorous verse.” The poet was Robert Frost. In 1894, the rhetoric teacher at Harrow in England wrote on a 16-year-old’s report card, “A conspicuous lack of success.” The 16-year-old was Winston Churchill.
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena” (The American Treasury: 1455–1955, ed. Clifton Fadiman, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955, p. 689).
Thomas S. Monson, “Never Give Up,” New Era, Sep 1994, 4
One Wednesday I paused before the elegant show window of a prestigious furniture store. That which caught and held my attention was not the beautifully designed sofa nor the comfortable appearing chair that stood at its side. Neither was it the beautiful chandelier positioned overhead. Rather, my eyes rested on a small sign that had been placed at the bottom right-hand corner of the window. Its message was brief: “FINISHERS WANTED.”
The store had need of those persons who possessed the talent and the skill to make ready for final sale the expensive furniture the firm manufactured and sold. “Finishers Wanted.” The words remained with me as I returned to the pressing activities of the day.
In life, as in business, there has always been a need for those persons who could be called finishers. Their ranks are few, their opportunities many, their contributions great.
From the very beginning to the present time, a fundamental question remains to be answered by each who runs the race of life. Shall I falter, or shall I finish? On the answer await the blessings of joy and happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come.
We are not left without guidance to make this momentous decision. The Holy Bible contains those accounts, even those lessons that, if carefully learned, will serve us well and be as a beacon light to guide our thoughts and influence our actions. As we read, we sympathize with those who falter. We honor those who finish.
The Apostle Paul likened life to a great race when he declared, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” (1 Cor. 9:24.) And before the words of Paul fell upon the ears of his listeners, the counsel of the son of David, king in Jerusalem, cautioned, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.” (Eccl. 9:11.)
Thomas S. Monson, “‘Finishers Wanted’,” Ensign, Jun 1989, 2