The Anatomy of Failure

In the Star Wars movies, there’s a quote for every situation in life. In my personal favorite, “The Empire Strikes Back,” Yoda, the 900-year-old Jedi master, says something short but profound. “Do, or do not. There is no try.” How cool is that? Moreover, how simple? I mean, who doesn’t want to be a hero saving the day without failure.

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In the Star Wars movies, there’s a quote for every situation in life. In my personal favorite, “The Empire Strikes Back,” Yoda, the 900-year-old Jedi master, says something short but profound. “Do, or do not. There is no try.” How cool is that? Moreover, how simple? I mean, who doesn’t want to be a hero saving the day without failure.


What’s wrong with a little failure every now and then? We all scraped our knees when we were kids and learned from it. We all turned out OK. Nowadays, though, we wrap ourselves in tiny little bubbles to protect ourselves from failure, taking away the joy of experiencing life’s processes and removing flavor from some of life’s journeys.

Think about those stupid, slickly-produced ab-crunching, diet and weight-loss machine infomercials. You see them in the middle of the night right around the time you crave a snack. It would be so easy to simply have that candy bar or Coke, (something I am very guilty of) depend on the promises of the “real people” featured, order what they’re selling and “protect” yourself from the responsibility of the journey.


I know exactly how powerful these pitches and promises of quick-fixes can be. I once ordered one of those weight loss diaries that told you what to eat and when and how much. I depended on this $125 “guide” (yes, $125) to make all the decisions for me and “protect” me from further weight loss failure in the tiny little bubble of its pleather-bound pages.


Did it work? No. Why? Because I’m human, and humans look for too many quick fixes, solutions or methods so there’s (or seems to be) less likelihood of failure. What’s worse, we use these things to blame someone or something else for our failures. We say to ourselves: “Oh well, I ordered that thing and did what I was supposed to do, but it didn’t work.”


My friends, the highest peaks of our achievements and successes always go through the lowest valleys of failure. And dare I say some of that aforementioned flavor – humility, patience, the ability to learn and grow from mistakes and most of all, appreciation for success comes from, you guessed it, failure.


In other words you absolutely must risk failure. You have to throw yourself out there and say that you are going to be on this weight-loss journey no matter what, no matter how hard. You will probably have setbacks. I know I do. When I came back from Chicago after my mom died, I gained back 20 pounds. I know I’ve always been an emotional eater, and my mom’s passing caused me such sadness that I turned to my old comfort foods for warmth when I felt cold and alone. I wasn’t happy about gaining the weight back. Not in the least. I was angry at myself. But I knew I wasn’t going to let her death from cancer beat me, too. I forgave myself, picked myself up and got back on track.

Failure is a matter of perspective and nothing more. Think about it. If you lose 10 pounds and gain back 5, you didn’t fail. You are still down 5 pounds! Who cares if it takes a few months to lose those pounds? If you are afraid of failing then you deny yourself the opportunity to embrace these failures and learn from them, enabling you to eventually succeed no matter what you do.

In my next blog, we’ll discuss the pitfalls of failure, not being afraid of failure and seeing the positives in the occasional failure while on this weight-loss journey.

Blog written by Bill Larson
Bill Ivory Larson has lost a total of 175 pounds, without surgery or a special diet. In 2005, when he moved from Chicago to...