Epic fail or colossal success?

One of my all-time favorite movies, Elizabethtown, addresses the issue of failure. The movie starts out with the main character Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) talking about the difference between a failure and a fiasco. Drew’s first line in the movie is a monologue in his head:

“As somebody once said, there's a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is simply the non-presence of success. Any fool can accomplish failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions. A fiasco is a folktale told to others, that makes other people feel more...alive. because it didn't happen to them"

As the movie plays on, it is evident that Drew experienced a fiasco. He designed a shoe that was produced but then deemed unsellable, and lost the company he worked for a billion dollars. He is so upset by this fiasco, and the ensuing loss of his job which he had dedicated his life to, that he decides to end his life. Right as he is about to commit the act, he receives a phone call from his sister, who informs him that his father passed away while visiting relatives in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and he must go collect his body. Reluctantly, Drew agrees. While on the flight, he meets a flight attendant, Claire, who changes the rest of his life. While in Kentucky, he gets to know his distant relatives who he hadn’t seen in years. He also learns a lot about his father from his family. His father and him had always talked about taking a road trip together, but never made time for it. Drew ends up driving his father’s ashes cross-country, sprinkling them here and there. Drew and Claire stay in touch throughout the movie, and their friendship turns into a budding romance, and the movie ends with them reunited.

Would we consider Drew losing his job an epic failure, or colossal success? Had he not lost his job, he would have been too consumed with work to fly to Elizabethtown and would never have met Claire. He also would not have gone through the healing process of losing his father and had the bonding time with his family. While the movie starts out implying his situation was an epic failure – a fiasco – it turns around by the end into a colossal success.
If we all think hard enough, I bet we have similar situations in our own lives. Maybe not the same circumstances – I think it’s pretty rare to lose a major company a billion dollars, which is why it’s call a fiasco and why it becomes a folktale – but we all have failures.

This idea occurred to me while discussing the idea of failure with a group of 8th grade girls at my church. We had been going through a series on having a “Fresh Start” and what that looks like. One of the topics we discussed was defining failure and success. We shared funny stories and anecdotes about failures we have had in our own lives. I shared a story about visiting a restaurant where I had been talking to one of the waiters there for a couple weeks. (I met him because my sister left my phone number on the table one day as a joke because I thought he was cute – and he actually called me). While I was there with my friends and trying to look cute, I ended up knocking over my glass of water, spilling it all over the table while talking to him, and he had to clean it up. I was so flustered and embarrassed – I called that experience an epic fail. We talked off and on for a couple of years, both talking to other people in the breaks. But in the end, it didn’t work between us. I was telling the girls this story as a failure, but one of the girls pointed out that it was actually a success story, because I didn’t marry him. I married my husband, and he is way better than the waiter.

My whole perspective of past dates relationships and almost-relationships changed. Instead of beating myself up or thinking of what I did wrong to make those fail, I should be praising the success of them not working out. I learned valuable lessons from each of those experiences (like don’t try to flirt while there are containers of spillable liquid around) and in the end, they didn’t work out. Instead, they prepared me for my husband. They helped me learn how to treat him, and how not to treat him. They helped me realize how reliable, dependable, and faithful a man can be by showing me the opposite, so I recognized those qualities in my husband immediately.

Ultimately, while the world might call those experiences missed opportunities or failures, I call them successes. Because the led me to my best friend, who I get to spend the rest of my life with. 


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