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Failure & Sourdough Bread - a Story

Sour isn’t always a great way to describe something, except for sourdough bread!

The lessons that I learn from failure are far more beneficial than the lessons I’ve learned from success.

I’ve loved sourdough bread ever since I was a kid. So in the spring of 2012, I decided it was time that I learned how to make sourdough bread, mainly so I could save money (I was eating way too many carbs back then). 

Google provided me with a plethora of recipe options, tips of the trade and basic notes on how to make sourdough. The only proper way to make sourdough is to create and cultivate something called a “sourdough starter”. Think of it as a fermenting glob of dough. It attracts fruit flies, stinks up a whole room and make your roommates seriously consider asking you to move out. 

After I made my starter, the recipe told me to check on my starter every day for 30 days. A (long) month later, my sourdough starter was ready to blossom into a delicious, mouth-watering, warm and crunchy product of my hard work over the last 30 days. I was ecstatic! I made two large, circular loaves and invited a few of my friends and family over to try it. 

They all got sick the next day.

It looked like my hard work didn’t really pay off. I failed, and the bowels of my friends and family were paying for it. 

In my current season of life, I’m learning that failure might not be as bad as we think. Morihei Ueshiba said it best when he wrote, “Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” Thomas Edison seems to agree that failure is crucial for success. When inventing the light bulb, he famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Regardless of his circumstance, he used his failure as a strength.

Are you afraid of failure? If you allowed failure to become part of your growth process, how differently would you view your life or career? 

I’ve found that even though failure has consequences that I don’t enjoy, the lessons that I learn from failure are far more beneficial than the lessons I’ve learned from success. A co-worker of mine once described a boss he had in a previous organization that was a terrible leader. He failed a lot, and rarely learned from his mistakes. I was surprised when my friend said, “I learned a lot from that man’s failure. He was a bad leader; he led staff and himself poorly. But I’ve learned a lot more from his poor leadership than I would have from an excellent leader. I now know how not to lead."

My sourdough made my family and friends sick, but I was simply one step closer to making the right sourdough bread. So I hunkered down, changed my perspective of my failure to fuel my improvement, and made sourdough bread the right way. It took extra time and discipline, but a month later I invited my family and friends over again. As I opened the oven and the warm, incredible aroma of bread filled the room, I knew it was just right.

They all loved it and asked for more.

Don’t let failure stop you. Use failure to make you work harder to find success.