Triumph Inspires, Not Success

Nov 11, 2010, Written by Sue Miley

What motivates us, success or failure?  Is it black or white?  One or the other?

I don’t think success motivates if the hill was easy to climb.  I think failure is tragic without redemption or reason.

Would we understand salvation without knowing what Jesus did for us on the cross?

We Learn from Triumph not Success

As a business person we desire to succeed and we would say we look for success to learn from and motivate us.  But in reality, I think learning comes in the various shades of grey.

We learn from the person who triumphed over hardship, started their business from nothing, and made it into what it is today.

We aspire to be like those who against all odds conquered their obstacles to achieve, or at least to be still standing today.

We relate to the messy stories of businesses that made mistakes, learned, tried again, failed again, learned again and persevered to tell the stories.

Don’t we?

We Want The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Don’t we learn more hearing the real story?  The story of the guy who woke up one morning wondering how he was going to make payroll at the end of the week.  He was down to minimal staff and wasn’t sure if they would be able to fill all of the orders.  He went into work that day and felt compelled to share his heart with his team knowing full well that they would either walk out on the spot or shift their attention to finding an employer that WOULD pay them next Friday, and the Friday after that.  This guy, when he is looking back with hindsight, knows this was the moment of his deepest despair and his greatest hope.

His team all listened with wide-eyes and hearts fluttering.  The first one asks what they can do to turn things around.  Commitment.  Loyalty.  It catches on.  The second person offers to wait a week for his check.  The third suggests they all come in for a few hours on Saturday to get ahead of schedule. To fill the orders.  And together they agree to personally deliver the product.  To serve the customer and the company. This was the turning point.

We want to believe that these stories are real.  That integrity pays off.  That perseverance bears fruit.  This is HOPE.

When I am working with clients I don’t see the light click on when I tell them about the promotions I had in my career or the successes I achieved.  It’s only when I swallow hard and share the ditches, the train wrecks, and follow-up with a happy ending.

And it isn’t just other people.  I am the same as us all.  I was talking to a friend who is on fire for the Lord and speaks with the confidence of God’s faithfulness with the flames of passion and the sureness of love.  Her story is an amazing one of finding and living God’s will.

It’s The Story Within The Story

But, it didn’t sit right.  It wasn’t the whole story.  I probed and prodded.  Were there obstacles?  How did you feel along the journey?  You make it sound so easy.

She heard my need.  My need for the grey.  My need for the story within the story.  And she delivered.  Her perseverance only grander in spite of the difficulty.  Her commitment to God more empowering based upon her faith as she stepped off of the many cliffs.  Through her tears I grew strength to fight the good fight and to run for the prize.

She wanted to glorify God.  Her destination is to show God’s glory to this fallen world.  But to me, to me it will be her journey that makes a life changing impact on us.  It will be her journey that shows Jesus to the world.

  • To see her trusting God in spite of the difficulties this world delivers.  (We are aliens in this world.)
  • To envy her faith in knowing that Jesus is the only Truth. (He is the way, the truth and the light.)
  • To hear her strength in moments of personal brokenness. (Father not my will, but your will be done.)
  • To realize the meaning of “who we are in Christ”.  (We are made pure as snow.)
  • To anticipate the reward she will hear when she enters heaven and Jesus says “Well done good and faithful servant”.

This is the real story of triumph, not success.  The truth. The faith.  The meaning.  The strength.  The reward.

This is what inspires me.  It’s her story and one day SHE will tell it.  But hearing it myself reminds me that we learn and grow in the journey.  It was her story behind the story that gave me hope.

Between the black and white is where character is born.

There Is No Happy Ending Without Sacrifice

Think about it.  We all like a happy ending, but without the ups and downs of the journey, the destination of “happily ever after” is only in fairy tales.  Not available to you and me.

However, the Perfect Lamb… the Gospel Message….Eternal Life do not come to us without a journey.  A journey of difficulty, betrayal, pain, and suffering. We all have our crosses to bear.

Christ did.  Why?

To secure our destination.  So that in eternity we could have “happily ever after”.  At the end of his earthly journey, He triumphed!

I encourage you to share your stories of grey with others.  It is in the grey that we see the love, the grace, the mercy, and the faithfulness of Jesus.

Reader Interactions


  1. Brad Harmon says

    I’ve always spouted off the cliche “you learn more from your failures than your successes” line without giving it the level of thought you have here. It’s true that failure (and it’s consequences) has a way of reinforcing lessons to those risk adverse of us. Who wants to go through that pain again?

    You’re right though. Without some successes sprinkled in along the journey it just becomes one long agonizing tale. Perhaps success helps us to appreciate our failures and see them as the great teachers they’ve become in our lives. Maybe it’s this perspective that draws us to those who have struggled to success?

    The Bible tells us that Christ was tempted in all ways just like we are. It’s that rateable struggle that gives us an ability to really empathize with people recounting the their struggles on the road to success. It’s that having walked in my shoes connection that bridges their story with ours. Being able to share in their struggles also allows us to share in their triumphs.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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