When I Realized I Was Ready To Let Go Of My First Big Failure
First big failures are defining, but 5 years later it’s time to go
In 2014 I finished my 3rd year in the U.S. military (my 7th if you include the U.S. Military Academy), and I had just received a negative review that spelled the end of my career.
I was devastated because after 7 years of commitment to the organization, the leadership decided in a matter of 2 months that my career was over.
After 7 years of training and service with great performance reviews, I suddenly was no longer valuable to the organization.
Five Years Later
Tuesday, talking with my mom on our drive home from the airport, I realized that it had been more than 5 years since my career-ending mistake.
Since that time I have:
- Traveled the to more than 16 countries volunteering with Christian non-profit organizations
- Worth with an anti-sex trafficking ministry in Thailand
- Served in the favelas of Brazil teaching children
- Attended theology school in Mozambique, Africa
- Complete 16 months of my 19 month MBA program
Still, there was this sense of inadequacy and emotional pain underpinning my life and worldview. I would always remember that I never got the opportunity to be Captain Payne in the U.S. Army.
Driving home, however, the words “five years” hit me like a ton of bricks.
Five years since Afghanistan.
Five years since that crazy woman threatened my life and my career.
First years since that scapegoating moment that rocked my world.
At that moment I thought, “Am I going to hold onto this for another five years? Am I going to continue to play, re-tell, and re-live this drama?”
My answer was immediate and astonishing, “No.”
Then something released.
I was over it.
Pondering this sudden freedom, I saw that this period — the five years of soul searching — was not spent in vain. It has been the time (and still is a time) where I’ve examined who I am and who I want to become.
Failure, especially moral or values-based failures, are particularly difficult for me because they force me to examine my motives, my wounds, my subconscious desires.
They invite me to patiently dig deeper and ask,
- “Where am I now?”
- “How did I get here?”
- “Where am I going to next?”
Sometimes, I am the perpetrator and victim of my own stupidity. Other times, I am the victim of others’.
Wherever the case, at some point I must fire engines again, accept the event, and move forward.
Maybe there is a time-cap on healing. Maybe there isn’t. In my case, I realized deep down that it was time. Even though that chapter was tremendously painful and enlightening, it had defined my actions long enough and I was ready to move on and embrace my new chapter— even if I don’t have all the answers.
Sometimes, life’s moments make it that simple.