4 Truths About Failure and Success


Okay, with the World Series going to a decisive winner-takes-all seventh game, let me begin with a trivia question. What record do Barry Bonds, Carlos Beltran, and Nelson Cruz currently share as of Friday morning (a record I hope Cruz shatters in Game 7)?

I want to highlight Nelson Cruz’s Major League career today for several reasons. One, he autographed my baseball in 2010 (this isn’t actually a reason but I like throwing it in). Two, he, along with his teammates and their opponents, is center stage in the sports world spotlight (Go, Rangers!). Three, his journey has relevance to our own faith journeys (and this, of course, is the reason for the post).

In 2008, for $20,000, a pittance in today’s professional sports world, any team could have picked Nelson Cruz off the waiver wire. No team did.

He was seriously undervalued. In this year’s postseason, Cruz has tied a Major League record (no, not yet, I’ll let you know the answer in a bit) and received the MVP nod in the American League Championship Series. He was the best of the best.

Nelson Cruz failed in earlier trips when called up to the Majors. He did well in Triple-A but success eluded him at the highest level of his profession. However, his failure opened him up to two choices. Remain the same and continue to fail.

Or consider a change.

He changed.

But not without risk.

And not without help.

Enter Scott Servais, the Ranger’s senior director of player development. When Cruz played for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Redhawks, Servais asked the Rangers general manager if he could visit the team on the road and work with Cruz. Servais said, “I’ve got to try something drastic.”*

Yes, he could “try something drastic.” So Servais went to Albuquerque when the team was on the road. He altered Cruz’s batting stance, the change needed to make him effective in the Majors, the change that helped him to tie a Major League postseason record (no, not yet, you’ll have to wait).

When the Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 to win their first postseason series ever, Cruz bee-lined straight for Servais. He hugged the man who made that moment possible.

Okay, so what does any of this have to do with faith?

1)      We all experience being undervalued in this world. For me, as a writer, being undervalued comes with every rejection notice from a publisher. But that’s life in this world. A greater problem arises when I assess my life and give it little worth.

2)      We fall and we fail. Paul wrote, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23 NIV). Failure—whether moral, professional, or something else altogether—is inevitable. Our journey will include disastrous moments. We can allow those fallen moments to determine life’s value for us—which leaves us with a mere pittance–or…

3)      Failure offers us the opportunity for drastic change. Failure leads us to choices—try in the same way and continue to fail, quit altogether, or open ourselves to change and new outcomes.

4)      We need someone to help. Nelson Cruz knew he needed to change. Failure had opened him up to options. But the willingness to change alone didn’t guarantee his success. Enter Scott Servais, the person who guided Cruz and provided the wise counsel that led to his continued success in the Majors.

So what? Knowing the cycle—an undervalued life, failure, openness to change, and the need for help—prepares us for positive change but it doesn’t guarantee we’ll make the needed changes.

Again, looking at this through my writer’s eyes, I know the cycle personally. It’s the last part of the process that presents the most difficulty, finding help. I have discovered being tied to community essential to my growth. Through writing connections like Jeff Goins, Michael Hyatt, and others, I find the resources that aid my becoming proficient in my profession.

In other words, through community, I receive the tools that move me from “I suck” to “I sell.”

Question: You can help us all by providing resources that you’ve found useful in your faith journey. What has helped you get up and grow after failure?

*“Boom or Bust,” Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated, October 24, 2011, p. 45

Recommended further reading: “Cruz’s Big League Path One of Persistence”

Trivia question answer: The all-time record for most homeruns in a single postseason (8).

About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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4 Responses to 4 Truths About Failure and Success

  1. carol says:

    Of course, don’t forget the wonderful help the ffws have given you 🙂

  2. Mary Jeffries says:

    Learn from your mistakes….isnt that what we are taught in life. No one is perfect, just do your best. These all remind us that we are imperfect. I am so glad GOD does not expect me to be perfect!
    Change can be a good thing. I am finding that out! But other changes are difficult…I’ve known that for a long time. Even with committment to change, old habits die hard. Thank God for HIS power to change what we cannot. To make us new and clean and fit for His kingdom.
    Yes, it takes many to help us reach out goals…thanks Tom for all the times you have spurred me on with good advice and brotherly love in Christ. MJ

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