Jason Wright, a New York Times bestselling author, wrote on his blog one day that failure is an option—not the advice we usually get from successful people. He explained that he has held many, many jobs throughout his life, most of which many would consider unimportant jobs. He has been a telemarketer, an Easter Bunny, a singing telegram deliverer, and a pizza delivery guy. He was fired for playing ball with a donut and for giving a discount to a cute girl when he was young.
Today, of course, he’s considered a success, but he didn’t start out that way. He started out struggling to find his place in the world, just like most of us do. Even his writing career wasn’t an overnight success and not every book he writes even today is successful.
Is he bitter about the failures? No, he understands they were important to his education. He learned when to take risks, and he learned to improve his skills as an employee. He was exposed to a variety of settings, always a useful experience for a writer. He improved who he was and learned to keep trying.
Jason Wright is a Mormon. Mormons are taught that life on earth is a test, and that we are here to learn, to grow, and to progress. This most likely informs Jason’s attitude towards his various failures in life. The entire lifespan isn’t one big final exam. It is a series of experiences with some quizzes along the way. The final exam doesn’t come until we die and stand before the Savior, Jesus Christ, to account for how we spent our time here on earth.
Mormon beliefs teach that we lived with God before we came to earth. We were spirits and did not have our physical bodies yet. However, we were the same person we are today, except, of course, for the changes that come to us as we learn and make choices. We learned to know and love God, our Heavenly Father, and we learned the gospel. We started making decisions about how committed we were going to be about keeping commandments and obeying God.
When the time came to come to earth, we had to make a choice. Agency—the right to choose—has always been ours, and even such an important step was left to our choice, although we could not choose the consequences of our choice. One third chose to follow Satan, who wanted to control our every thought and action so there would be no risk of failure. Of course, he also wanted us to worship him instead of God in return for this. Fortunately, Jesus Christ, knowing we would need a Savior who would follow God’s plan, offered to take on the role at great personal sacrifice. Most of us chose to follow Jesus Christ. Those who chose to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior were permitted to come to earth. The rest were destined to forfeit the gift of atonement Jesus would offer and could not come to earth at all. They were forced to remain with the leader they had unwisely chosen.
For the rest of us, life became the center stop in a three-part eternity. Although life is often filled with trials and failures, Mormons know that each trial gives us experience and can contribute to our growth is we approach it with the proper attitude. We can stop working and spend our lives feeling sorry for ourselves because things are hard or we can get back up and go back to work, looking for the lessons to be learned from each challenge. Singing telegrams with his wife and dog was probably not Jason Wright’s dream job, but if he had stopped there, presuming things would never get any better, it’s likely he would never have written his first published book. Instead, he took from it what he could and kept working for a better life. Failure didn’t mean no more chances to Jason. It just meant another lesson to learn.
Life is a wonderful opportunity. Few of us travel it in a straight line, always staying on schedule and meeting each goal as planned, but if we keep working and remapping the journey based on what we learn, we will most assuredly reach the finish line.