A friend of mine made a serious mistake as a young man of seventeen. At the time, he viewed it as a rather minor error and felt that the punishment he received was unusually severe. After thinking it over for several weeks, however, he decided to submit to the punishment and go through the process of rectifying his wrong. As a result, he was given a second chance and has proven to become an exceptional individual, employee, volunteer, and leader. Because of this second chance, he has been able to serve in capacities that would otherwise have been closed to him.
As much as we strive for perfection, we all fall short. The truth is that making mistakes is the very way that we learn and grow. We strive, we fall down, we get up again. Any society which aims to prevent every mistake, punish every error, and avoid any pain is doomed to failure. Why? Because innovation, improvement, and opportunity are impossible without allowing for failure.
It’s reported that Thomas Edison was interviewed by a young NY Times reporter after hundreds of attempts to create a viable electric light. When asked if he felt like a failure and if he thought he should just give up by now, Edison replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” Soon after, Edison patented the electric light.
We all need second chances. But we seldom give them to ourselves. How many times have you tried and failed at something only to say, “I’ll never try that again!” Do you continually beat yourself up over something that happened years ago that you can’t change? Do you tell yourself, “I’ve made my bed, now I have to sleep in it!” Do you resist taking appropriate risks because you are afraid of failure?
My message to you today is this. The past is gone forever. Do what you can to resolve the past, then forget it. Stop beating yourself up. Give yourself a second chance. Believe in yourself. Get up every time that you fall. Keep going. Your future is as bright as your hope.