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Failing My Way To The Top & Hanging On!

Recently I have written and have been speaking more on the topic of failure. It’s something that people have a great fear of, yet, I have learned that it is in those moments of failure that we experience the most personal growth. If you have ever taken a U.S. History or Civics course you are familiar with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words, “the only thing to fear, is fear itself.” I’ve only thought of these words in a historical context since that’s how I first heard the quote. Until more recently, I never thought about the wisdom of these words in my own personal and professional life.


Failure and fear are things that we all share in common. It comes to each of us. As a matter of fact, the thing that I have feared most is the fear of failure. If we are honest and truthful, it’s not failing that makes us afraid as much as it is, the fear of other people seeing and judging us for that failure. One day I shared this fear with my mother, and she responded with her usual plain-speak wisdom and said, “people that care don’t matter and people that matter don’t care.” Now I don’t know if mom thought that up or read it somewhere but whatever the case, it touched a chord inside me.


People who care more about my failure than they do about me….don’t matter. People that care more about me and don’t give a hoot about my failure….matter most in my life. People that truly love you and are real friends will love you in failure and through failure. People who gloat over your failure, even if they are portraying care and concern, were never your friends in the first place. The good thing about failure is that if you pay attention to how the people in your life, respond to you during these critical times, you will know exactly who to keep in your life and who to vote off the island.


I have had almost as many failures in my life, as I have had success, and perhaps that is why I am successful today. That success comes from choosing to learn from those failures and also from not letting them define who I am at the core. It’s important during times of failure to engage in positive self-talk. If the world is down on you, don’t join the bandwagon and kick yourself too. Now’s NOT the time for that. The time to reflect and figure out your role in the failure is always important, and that time will manifest, but don’t let this reflection result in negativity towards yourself or others. Now is the time to begin to position yourself for a comeback. It’s time to hit the metaphorical gym and build up those muscles of self-esteem, self-validation, and self-care.




I am a testimony to the fact that down doesn’t mean out. I failed out of college on my first attempt. Later I became a pro at college, and today I sit here with a doctorate in law and policy. When I failed out, I learned who my real friends were, who was really in my corner and who loved me without condition. Many left, but the most important people stayed, and it was their support that got me through the toughest of times as I went off the scene for a minute to pull myself together and prepare for a comeback. It was years in the making, but I did it. I came back. Hanging on through blood, sweat, and tears is my testimony, but I made it. What’s your story? Will you let those that don’t matter, matter enough to keep you ashamed and in pain? I hope not because I see success in you. You wouldn’t be reading this now if there wasn’t something deep down within that yearned to be more than a failure. By the way, failing does not make you a failure, quitting when you fail, makes you a failure SO WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T QUIT ON YOU. Stick around for the next chapter. The book of your life promises to be a great read, so go write your story in a way that you will prove to others, the importance of hanging on. Trust me….You’ve got this.

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©2018 by Dr. Shai Butler