Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Lasting Benefits of Repeated Failure

 

I grew up on a hog farm in an Amish community in southeast Ohio. We did not practice the Amish religion of our neighbors, but we farmed that way, and working with draft horses (we used Belgians) teaches one patience. We were very good at farming hogs, but after Dick Celeste was elected governor (our first Democrat governor after many years of the Republican Jim Rhodes), our income taxes went up 90%. We lasted about a year after that. Ten days before my 16th birthday, we lost our farm, all of our stuff was sold at a Sheriff’s sale, and we had to move. It’s hard to express how angry I was. I was 16 years old and I hated the whole world. I don’t think that most people really understand hate, but I do. On the other hand, my Dad got out of farming and eventually ended up teaching math at our public high school, which, combined with his military time from Vietnam, allowed him to retire, which would have been very difficult as a hog farmer. So things actually worked out eventually.

I was a good athlete, which in Ohio means I played football at a high level. I’m in the Athletic Hall of Fame for my area of Ohio (for football and discus and a few other things, per the picture at the right). The attitude problem inspired by the loss of my home helped make me into an exceptional football player. As it turns out, though, I wasn’t THAT good. As I encountered better and better athletes, I found some that were better than me. So after college sports, I abandoned athletics and moved on to other things. It hurt at the time, but things worked out ok, eventually.

After that experience, I decided that I was going to medical school. I was helped along the way by helpful professors (Helpful professor, whose father was probably an investment banker: “You know, not a whole lot of pig farmers become doctors.” Me: “[email protected]$# you, and watch this.”). I ended up becoming really good at medicine, and I fulfilled my dream of being the best doctor in a small town in the mountains of Tennessee. I just wanted to be THE DOCTOR of a small town, who everyone went to if they had a really serious problem. This worked out great, and I did very well until Obamacare passed.

When everyone’s deductible went from $250 to $10,000, that meant that people of modest means in my east Tennessee small town could no longer afford to go to the doctor so I went under. But just before I did, I switched to concierge medicine. This didn’t really work in Appalachia, so after a while, I took a concierge medicine job in Hilton Head. I loved the mountains, I loved my patients, and I did not want to leave. But I had to, so I did. Many people dream of moving to Hilton Head. I didn’t want to go. But I had to, so I did. And things worked out ok, eventually.

I’ve been here for three years now, I’m earning a good living, and my family is quite happy in Hilton Head. As a kid, following two draft horses around in circles in the fields of SE Ohio, I’d never heard of this place. Now I live here, and things are pretty good. How does one get from a hog farm in an Amish community to living on a golf course in Hilton Head?

I have no idea, even though I have done it. Many of the decisions that led me here felt forced like I had little other choice. I don’t like being told what to do.

Let me emphasize that point: I absolutely can’t stand being told what to do.

This personality trait has occasionally created problems for me. And sometimes for the people around me. My father (and my mother in heaven) and my wife are slowing nodding their heads right now…

But I did a lot of things that didn’t work out, for various reasons, so I went and did something else. I didn’t want to, but I did. And that’s it, I think.

When you fail at something, either because you goofed up, or because something happened beyond your control; you have a choice. You can work harder at what you’re doing, and failing at. Or you can go do something else.

Strangely enough, we generally choose to work harder at whatever we’re failing at. We don’t like to accept failure, so we work harder. And we can’t accept being forced into anything. We keep pounding away. And sometimes that can be the right choice. Some remarkable things have been accomplished in that setting.

But I think that in general, when what you’re doing is not working (for any reason), it’s generally best to go do something else.

After all, this is not working. So why are you putting more effort into it? Might your effort be better spent on something that has not been a failure so far?

But we fear the unknown. We keep working at things that are failing, partially because they are known, which comforts us. Even if they’re failing, they’re known, so we feel more comfortable. That’s strange if you think about it. Doing things that are failing should make us uncomfortable. But that’s not how it works.

Things are strange right now. The economy has changed very rapidly, in ways that could not have been anticipated. Many of you have jobs which have always worked out well for you, but now have suddenly turned into sources of instability or failure, through no fault of your own. You’re still good at your job. But these are strange times.

In times of turmoil, there is the potential for catastrophe. But there is also the potential for enormous gains, both personal and financial. It’s sometimes hard to see the potential upside when you’re busy trying to keep your head above water.

But this possible setback could turn into a remarkable opportunity. Perhaps things will work out ok, eventually.

I was an exceptional hog farmer. I was also a really good football player and small-town doctor. But I don’t do those things anymore. Sometimes because I wasn’t good enough (although I thought I was at the time), or sometimes because something beyond my control forced me out. But regardless, I no longer work at those pursuits, which I thought I was really good at.

Which stinks. Except, here I sit, in my fancy house in Hilton Head. So I swallow my pride.

Strange, huh?

Perhaps this is your opportunity to try something new. Perhaps things are not quite as bad as they seem. Perhaps the pain you feel right now will fade, with time. Perhaps this is your big chance.

Perhaps things will work out ok, eventually.

I’m rooting for you, if that helps.

 

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  1. Bob Wainwright Member

    That picture of you… I always thought it was Jon Bon Jovi singing on stage. 

    • #1
    • March 26, 2020, at 5:18 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  2. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    Bob Wainwright (View Comment):

    That picture of you… I always thought it was Jon Bon Jovi singing on stage.

    I had the hair.

    If I had his singing ability, I wouldn’t have wasted my time in medical school.

    • #2
    • March 26, 2020, at 5:26 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. PHCheese Member

    I think this post is nothing but hogwash but it par for the course for the good Doctor. Actually great post Doc.

    • #3
    • March 26, 2020, at 5:41 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. Clavius Thatcher

    Thank you for this inspirational post.

    • #4
    • March 26, 2020, at 5:51 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. Brian Wyneken Member

    “Moving on” is a pretty strong american trait, and the best of it leaves a trail of opposition. Thank you for the post, and sometime read “Augie March” if you haven’t already.

    • #5
    • March 26, 2020, at 6:37 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dr. Bastiat:

    I’m rooting for you, if that helps.

    Oink. Great post.

     

     

    • #6
    • March 26, 2020, at 7:35 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. Skyler Coolidge

    This hits home with me. Thanks.

    • #7
    • March 26, 2020, at 9:37 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Thanks for the share of your life’s switch backed roads.

    I came up with a new meme yesterday: “What is not possible is indeed possible.” Your life story reminds me of it.

    Because far too often the main reason we cannot go from a hog farm in Ohio to the life of a doctor in Hilton Head is because we decided that it is not possible. When an individual removes that inner “Nay sayer,” then life takes on a beautiful shine.

    • #8
    • March 26, 2020, at 9:45 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    You only need to win the lottery once.

    Fail your way to success like Scott Adams, dilbert

     

    • #9
    • March 26, 2020, at 11:00 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Django Member

    Life will knock you down more than once, but you aren’t a failure until to decide to stay down. As my Mom said about my failures, “You all can laugh all you want, but one day that pup of mine will lay in the shade.” 

    • #10
    • March 26, 2020, at 11:36 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Sisyphus (hears Xi laughing) Coolidge
    Sisyphus (hears Xi laughing) Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thank you. I was just thinking that it might be time.

    • #11
    • March 26, 2020, at 11:54 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Samuel Block Support

    I know this picture from somewhere….

    🤔

    • #12
    • March 27, 2020, at 2:16 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    I know this picture from somewhere….

    🤔

    You probably saw it on ESPN or something…

    • #13
    • March 27, 2020, at 5:41 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I am fond of advising folks that you learn far more from your failures than you will ever learn from your successes.

    • #14
    • March 27, 2020, at 7:34 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Ilan Levine Member

    Stop writing posts!

    • #15
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:23 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Ammo.com Member

    “The Lasting Benefits of Repeated Failure” is an excellent title and before reading I wasn’t sure if the content that followed would live up to its auspicious title. It did. Great story.

    • #16
    • March 27, 2020, at 10:08 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. Skyler Coolidge

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    I know this picture from somewhere….

    🤔

    You probably saw it on ESPN or something…

    I can’t tell what he’s doing in the picture. From the scenery, I’m guessing it’s a shot put?

    Edit: Oh, now I see a discus in his hand. Very dark photo. Sorry to miss it.

    • #17
    • March 27, 2020, at 10:14 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  18. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    I can certainly identify with this post. My father left school at 15 to join the Navy. He was not a fan of education and one of his favorite comments to me when I was a teenager was “Get your nose out of that book !” When I was a high school senior, he told me, “Get any idea of going to college out of your head.” Naturally, I ignored him. Years later, my mother told me that I missed a National Merit Scholarship because he refused to submit a financial statement. I got a congratulatory letter instead. I did get a scholarship but not to my first choice of CalTech. I did go to college and eventually got into medical school. I have written a couple of books about my medical adventures.

     

    • #18
    • March 27, 2020, at 2:13 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  19. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Good stuff. As much as people stress setting goals and sticking to it, the ability to adapt is always important.

    After close to two decades in the same industry, I now find myself in a position where it is time to make a change. To what? I am still working that out but somehow I am not as stressed out as I probably should be. We’ll see where all this leads.

    • #19
    • March 27, 2020, at 4:32 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  20. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    I am fond of advising folks that you learn far more from your failures than you will ever learn from your successes.

    I tell people that it’s impossible to learn from success.

    You’re succeeding. Why should you change anything?

    Only failure forces you into the painful process of honest self-appraisal and leaving one’s comfort zone.

    • #20
    • March 27, 2020, at 5:59 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    Ilan Levine (View Comment):

    Stop writing posts!

    I very much appreciate the inspiring encouragement from my devoted fans…

    • #21
    • March 27, 2020, at 6:04 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  22. Django Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    I am fond of advising folks that you learn far more from your failures than you will ever learn from your successes.

    I tell people that it’s impossible to learn from success.

    You’re succeeding. Why should you change anything?

    Only failure forces you into the painful process of honest self-appraisal and leaving one’s comfort zone.

    That is a good question that sort of answers itself. If you are succeeding, don’t change anything, but take the opportunity to an “RCA”. 

    In the engineering world, “Root Cause Analysis” is usually done when something fails. Was it a systemic or process failure? Was some critical part, hardware or software, the cause? But how about a RCA of success? I’ve never seen that done. The closest I ever saw was when I was asked the question, “How do we replicate the chemistry of your group?” No one appreciated my answer. 

    • #22
    • March 27, 2020, at 6:27 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    Django (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    I am fond of advising folks that you learn far more from your failures than you will ever learn from your successes.

    I tell people that it’s impossible to learn from success.

    You’re succeeding. Why should you change anything?

    Only failure forces you into the painful process of honest self-appraisal and leaving one’s comfort zone.

    That is a good question that sort of answers itself. If you are succeeding, don’t change anything, but take the opportunity to an “RCA”.

    In the engineering world, “Root Cause Analysis” is usually done when something fails. Was it a systemic or process failure? Was some critical part, hardware or software, the cause? But how about a RCA of success? I’ve never seen that done. The closest I ever saw was when I was asked the question, “How do we replicate the chemistry of your group?” No one appreciated my answer.

    I think this is a big reason that it is so much easier to achieve success than to maintain it. While you are succeeding, your competitors are learning.

    • #23
    • March 27, 2020, at 6:35 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Django (View Comment):
    ago

    Django (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    I am fond of advising folks that you learn far more from your failures than you will ever learn from your successes.

    I tell people that it’s impossible to learn from success.

    You’re succeeding. Why should you change anything?

    Only failure forces you into the painful process of honest self-appraisal and leaving one’s comfort zone.

    That is a good question that sort of answers itself. If you are succeeding, don’t change anything, but take the opportunity to an “RCA”.

    In the engineering world, “Root Cause Analysis” is usually done when something fails. Was it a systemic or process failure? Was some critical part, hardware or software, the cause? But how about a RCA of success? I’ve never seen that done. The closest I ever saw was when I was asked the question, “How do we replicate the chemistry of your group?” No one appreciated my answer.

    Hmm. So what was your answer. (Asking for a friend.)

    • #24
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:05 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Django Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):
    ago

    Django (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    I am fond of advising folks that you learn far more from your failures than you will ever learn from your successes.

    I tell people that it’s impossible to learn from success.

    You’re succeeding. Why should you change anything?

    Only failure forces you into the painful process of honest self-appraisal and leaving one’s comfort zone.

    That is a good question that sort of answers itself. If you are succeeding, don’t change anything, but take the opportunity to an “RCA”.

    In the engineering world, “Root Cause Analysis” is usually done when something fails. Was it a systemic or process failure? Was some critical part, hardware or software, the cause? But how about a RCA of success? I’ve never seen that done. The closest I ever saw was when I was asked the question, “How do we replicate the chemistry of your group?” No one appreciated my answer.

    Hmm. So what was your answer. (Asking for a friend.)

    I explained that it was just circumstance, that the stars had aligned themselves and I was paying attention. We — for once — had a stable budget, a Stanford Mechanical Engineering Ph. D. with exactly the skill set I needed, a few damn good software engineers to implement my ideas, a broad charter, and a demanding, extraordinarily intelligent leader who was determined to see just what it took to succeed in the current environment. Good luck replicating that using your current processes. 

     

    • #25
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:18 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Thanks for the share of your life’s switch backed roads.

    I came up with a new meme yesterday: “What is not possible is indeed possible.” Your life story reminds me of it.

    Because far too often the main reason we cannot go from a hog farm in Ohio to the life of a doctor in Hilton Head is because we decided that it is not possible. When an individual removes that inner “Nay sayer,” then life takes on a beautiful shine.

    Working on a hog farm made him immune to swine flu? 

    • #26
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:35 PM PDT
    • Like
  27. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    The good Doctor is talking about fear. Fear keeps people in modest lives, not even scratching the surface of their potential. Change is hard. Fear can dominate your decision-making. I can list a thousand reasons not to stop what I’m doing, because it’s safe, it’s known, and expectations are already set.

    This way leads to madness. Or, in a more desultory and depressing way, it leads, inexorably, to a minimized existence, a transformation into the dullard. The person you know at work who never volunteers for the one more piece of work, the person who finds every reason that a new thing cannot be done, and if they cling to life long enough, they become the person in charge of others, reinforcing the norms that cannot be challenged.

    These people are in the Velvet Coffin ™. They are dead, but it’s comfortable. And they like it.

    • #27
    • March 28, 2020, at 10:18 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Ilan Levine Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Ilan Levine (View Comment):

    Stop writing posts!

    I very much appreciate the inspiring encouragement from my devoted fans…

    I learned from your post how to motivate you. 

    • #28
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:40 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Django (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    I am fond of advising folks that you learn far more from your failures than you will ever learn from your successes.

    I tell people that it’s impossible to learn from success.

    You’re succeeding. Why should you change anything?

    Only failure forces you into the painful process of honest self-appraisal and leaving one’s comfort zone.

    That is a good question that sort of answers itself. If you are succeeding, don’t change anything, but take the opportunity to an “RCA”.

    In the engineering world, “Root Cause Analysis” is usually done when something fails. Was it a systemic or process failure? Was some critical part, hardware or software, the cause? But how about a RCA of success? I’ve never seen that done. The closest I ever saw was when I was asked the question, “How do we replicate the chemistry of your group?” No one appreciated my answer.

    I have a number of books on errors in various fields. I was an engineer before medical school and went back to college (Dartmouth) after I retired to study how to measure medical quality.

    • #29
    • March 29, 2020, at 3:46 PM PDT
    • 2 likes