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A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

George Bernard Shaw


A guy named Hegelochus acted in the play Orestes by Euripides when it was performed in the City Dionysia’s dramatic festival in 408 BC (none of those facts are relevant).  He was playing the title role of Orestes (no doubt a big deal).  In line 279 of the play, instead of  saying, “after the storm I see again a calm sea,” Hegelochus recited, “after the storm I see again a weasel.”

A calm sea” versus “a weasel” – not even close to a similar meaning.  What was he thinking?

Unfortunately, he was roundly mocked by Plato and never acted again.

And his error is still remembered 2400 years later.

Talk about a failure of epic proportions.


There have been many literary failures.

Imagine a copy of the Bible that reads, “Thou shalt commit adultery” (called the Adulterers Bible, published in 1631).  Or a Chilian coin that spells Chile as “Chiie” (2010) (see the above image).  Or the Australian cookbook titled the “Pasta Bible” that suggests chefs season their meals with “salt and freshly ground black people.”

All these resulted in the destruction of costly products and someone losing their job.

Dealing with Failure

The question is, for business leaders and entrepreneurs, how do we deal with failure?

Here are three suggestions.

  1. Acceptance and self-compassion are the basics of moving on from failure. You will know best how to talk to yourself, but some form of acceptance and forgiveness of yourself as a unique, valuable, fabulous human being is needed.  Many books, online courses, and psychologists are ready to help.  Do the work; it’s important.  As the self-help cliché has it, the airplane safety talk is right: Put on your own oxygen mask first.
  2. Positive reframing can help make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. The idea here is to find something, anything, that did go well or can be spun into a positive.  Don’t fool yourself, but don’t overdo the doom and gloom in the first flush of failure.

Hegelochus must have gotten the rest of his line right?

  1. Humor is a great gift if you can summon it. Laughing at yourself is a great gift; lightness allows you to rise above the slough of despair and sail on serenely.  Once you can laugh at failure, it is no longer terminal.  You are ready to move on.

The Bible

Reminding ourselves that the Bible is not a book about perfect people is always good.  Far from it.

There are many biblical heroes who committed serious mistakes.

We all know of Noah, who built an ark when God decided to destroy the world.  Many don’t realize that he also planted the first vineyard and became the first drunk (Genesis 9:20-21).  Noah’s drunkenness inevitably led to the curse of Ham, and that single event of his drunkenness and his son Ham’s inability to cover him created generational chaos for centuries to come.

While this mistake had its consequences, God’s grace is shown through Noah’s legacy: a man of impossible faith.

Although God called Moses to complete a task more significant than himself, he doubted God’s choice of messenger to the captive Israelites because of his “slow speech” and his past mistakes.

After killing a man and running from the consequences, Moses was a reluctant leader.  But he eventually believed that God could and would use him.  Moses freed Israel through God’s power and became a great, successful leader whom many wanted to honor.

The Bible tells us that Moses chose to share and fight the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin’.  Moses understood that God’s worst was better than the world’s best.”

While Noah and Moses are just several of the many heroes in the Bible, all reveal to us that God not only uses broken people but also delights in performing that miraculous process in our lives.

For this reason, Ephesians 1:7 reminds us that if we are willing to humble ourselves, we can be heroes, too.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

There are many ways to overcome failure.  Self-help and counseling are two great sources.  But the best is to turn to God and trust him with your actions and salvation.