A woman writing on a chalkboard.

Failure—It’s All Part of the Plan

When failure becomes motivation, we can learn and grow from any outcome.

While pursuing his undergraduate degree at BYU, Matthew O. Richardson failed a chemistry test. 

"Most important, I am reminded that life is not determined by a singular performance." —Matthew O. Richardson

Image by Markus Spiske

He hurried out of the classroom after stuffing the test with the red “76” scrawled at the top into his backpack. In disbelief, he took the test out later to see if he’d read it wrong. “Then I saw something I hadn’t noticed before,” he recounts. “My heart raced when I saw a tiny minus sign. You see, I didn’t get a 76 on this exam, I missed 76! And sure enough, in the corner was the number 24!”

In his 2016 devotional, “Stand Up Straight, Smile, and Remember Who You Are,” Brother Richardson labels this story as one treasured lesson from his time at BYU. He explains that he has kept this failed exam because instead of discouraging him, it inspires his growth. Brother Richardson explains that this exam has changed his perspective on failure: “I remember that learning is a process and not an event…. Most important, I am reminded that life is not determined by a singular performance.”

From a failed chemistry test, Brother Richardson learned that failure is an opportunity to grow and a vital part of our Heavenly Father’s plan. As a loving parent, Heavenly Father has to watch us fall so that we can learn to endure and find strength as we get up and try again. Christ’s atonement supplies us with support and renewal—not as a backup plan if we fail, but as the only plan for when we fail.  Failure is not an ending, but a path to new learning.

Learn more about overcoming failure by reading Matthew O. Richardson’s full devotional, “Stand Up Straight, Smile, and Remember Who You Are.”

Source: BYU Speeches

—Brooklyn Hughes, Latter-day Saint Insights


Find more insights

Struggling with perfectionism? Read Brooklyn Bird’s article “Faith in Christ, Faith in Yourself” for additional insights. 

Dive deeper into your understanding of God by reading about how he works with imperfect people in Sarah Warner’s article “A Perfect Gospel With Imperfect People.”

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One Comment

  1. I love the message of this article. I’ve had a similar experience to this professor (though more long-term): I’ve always prided myself on being a good student, but the more I’ve gone through university, the more I’ve struggled staying focused and disciplined. It’s been hard staying motivated to keep going when I feel like I’ve failed so many times as I crawl my way to graduation.

    But at the same time, the things I’ve learned and the people I’ve met because of those failed experiences has really taught me about growth and my own strength. It doesn’t matter how many times we fail as long as we keep going, even if we’re sad about what happened—or mad or frustrated or whatever else. Failure happens, and that’s okay.

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