Reflection: Success and Failure
I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 NLT
It’s easy to blame ourselves or those around us for failures. However, we should not fool ourselves into thinking that failure is always a result of our shortcomings. Nor should we believe that success is exclusively due to our merits. Success or failure may be due to chance.
For example, Microsoft had a crack at success largely because of IBM’s offhand decision to use the MS-DOS operating system for a backwater project called the personal computer. Bill Gates later reflected, “Our timing in setting up the first software company aimed at personal computers was essential to our success. The timing wasn’t entirely luck, but without great luck it couldn’t have happened.” Asked why he had started a software company just at the time IBM was trying its luck with a personal computer, he replied, “I was born at the right place and time.”
This is not to say that hard work and ingenuity aren’t important. They prepare us to make the most of the chances we get in life, and they may create opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Yet one who succeeds at work may be no more deserving than another who fails.
If our response to success is solely self-congratulation, we are practicing idolatry. If our response is thankfulness, then we are worshiping God. If our reaction to failure is despair, then we are feeling the hollowness of a broken idol. But if our reaction is perseverance, then we are experiencing the gracious power of God.
As the year is drawing to an end. Thank God for the opportunities and skills that have allowed you to succeed (in big ways and in small ways) this year. After the sting of failure, pray that God will help you to pick yourself up and move forward with what you’ve learned.