Is the following a photo of success or failure?
(The answer appears below the photo)
This photo I took captures the moment a split second after the Osprey failed in pursuit of its prey.
At that time, the Osprey had swooped down to grab an extremely large fish.
It succeeded in grabbing on to the fish with its talons, BUT the fish was too big, too strong, and too heavy for the Osprey to fly away with it.
In fact, the fish pulled the bird down into the water, submerging 90% of the bird’s body, and started to drown it.
The moment you see above is a split second after the bird decided to give up, let go of the fish, and fly up to live to fight another day.
In a truly glorious rise from failure, the Osprey strained to flap its water-drenched wings to pull itself out of harm’s way.
The reason you see so much water spray, which is very unusual for an Osprey, is precisely because the water had drenched the Osprey’s wings when it got pulled under.
Birds were designed to fly, not to swim. This Osprey got reminded of that lesson in this GLORIOUS moment — arguable much more glorious than if it had been successful.
Sometimes it is not how we handle success that defines us; it is how we handle “failure.”
For it is in recovering from failure that lessons are learned, “muscles” (physical and mental) are strengthened, and skills are honed for the next attempt.
Nobody successful in life or nature gets that way without learning from his or her “failures.”
When I look at the most glorious moments in my life and career, they are not the public moments of success. They have always been those private moments right after I’ve hit rock bottom.
In my case, it was a figurative rock bottom. In the case of the Osprey, it’s literal.
In both cases, recovering from failure is glorious (even if it feels absolutely miserable in the moment!).
There’s a second lesson here. And that is the value of setting ambitious goals and learning from the PURSUIT of them.
It would have been “safer” had the Osprey not attempted to pursue such an ambitious goal.
I would have had far fewer failures in my life and career had I not tried to aim high.
But that misses the point entirely.
When you aim high, even when you fail… or especially when you fail… you GROW and learn from the experience.
Failure is not the opposite of success. It is the pathway through which you succeed.
However, this is only true under one condition: you genuinely embrace the lesson failure gives you as a gift.
That’s only possible if you face failure head on (rather than hide from it) so you notice the gift, are humble enough to learn the lesson, and have the courage to try again.