Music and the Spoken Word

Fail Forward - Sunday, March 8, 2015

At the start of a new semester, the president of a large university advised his students: “We will all fail. More than once. Every day.” Not exactly the inspiring pep talk they may have expected. But then he added: “My plea for you today is to learn how to fail successfully.”1

He recounted a failure from his own background as a young lawyer, when a partner at his firm pointed out errors in a document he had carefully prepared. The criticism hurt, but he reworked the document and solved the problem. The law partner then shared this wise counsel: “Good judgment comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgment.”2

Of course, no one seeks out failure, but no one can completely avoid it either. So we may as well learn from it. In fact, it could be said that if we’re not failing from time to time, we’re not learning all that we can. A child who doesn’t fall—a lot—never learns how to walk. A dancer, athlete, writer, or singer who never stumbles or makes mistakes never improves and never achieves greatness.

The key is the way we react to our setbacks and failures. Instead of becoming frustrated, ashamed, or discouraged, we can choose to go forward with new experience, broader perspective, better judgment, and renewed determination. We may continue to fail, but we can ensure that when we do, we fail forward.

The road of life is not a smooth highway paved with happiness and success. Potholes and detours along the way are meant to teach us and enrich our experience, if we are willing to learn from them. This is what it means to fail successfully—to not let life’s failures set us back but propel us forward.

-Lloyd D. Newell

1. Kevin J. Worthen, in Valerie Johnson, “Learn to Fail Successfully, BYU President Tells Students,” Church News, Jan. 13, 2015,
2. In Valerie Johnson, “Learn to Fail Successfully.”

Mar. 8, 2015, Broadcast Number 4,460

Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Orchestra at Temple Square

Mack Wilberg
Ryan Murphy

Richard Elliott

Lloyd Newell

Morning Has Broken
Irish melody; arr. Mack Wilberg

All Beautiful the March of Days
English melody; arr. Mack Wilberg

Norwegian Rustic March, from Lyric Pieces
Edvard Grieg; arr. Richard Elliott

How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place, from A German Requiem
Johannes Brahms

You'll Never Walk Alone, from Carousel
Richard Rodgers; arr. Arthur Harris

Hail to the Lord's Anointed
Samuel Sebastian Wesley; arr. Ryan Murphy