Failure and Success: After We Fail, We Succeed
Humans tend to get very discouraged when things do not go our way. This may be especially true for younger people, who have grown up attached to their instant gratification digital devices. Below I will list several highly successful people, but I will also note their many failures before they succeeded in life.
To make this post more personal I will begin with myself, although I do not AT ALL pretend to be famous like the people who will follow. I was ill as a child; my illness required me to be home-tutored for about 2 years. I missed all the basics in grades 1 and 2. When I returned to school in the third grade (with an incompetent teacher) I was hopelessly behind in the basics of English language skills, math skills, etc. Things were so bad that I had to participate in special education for a number of months just to catch up on the basics. I failed in my early educational experiences, but I succeeded in many other ways later. Lucky for me that my earlier school failure did not harm my self-esteem. However, even today I notice that I work harder academically than necessary for no clear and conscious reasons. The love from my parents and siblings helped me during my earlier failures. With parental and family supports and encouragement, hard work, and rigid determination I was able to do better later in public school. That said, I did no studying in grades 9 and 10, but decided to open a few books in grade 11 just in case I decided to apply to college. Some, very few, of my high school teachers thought I possessed good potential. I was more interested in part-time work to pay for my car, and going to parties with my friends. My real introduction to learning happened when I was a first year college student; I pulled an all-nighter for a Greek History exam. My Dean had warned me that I may be required to leave college in December due to poor grades (C-s), so I decided to do some academic work. There was NO ROOM for failing in education in my family. My father was totally shocked when he came to my room to say goodnight at 11PM! At that moment I realized (an AHAhhh! moment) that there were some parts of learning and especially reading that I liked. My father, a man of far greater intelligence and wisdom than I will ever have, was unable to pursue his own education – or even complete high school. His father, a skilled stone mason, was injured at work so my dad had to quit school to support his own family of origin. My parents behaviorally conditioned us to desire higher education and training. Of four children, three completed doctorate degrees and one had a long and very successful career in a specialized trade. I graduated with high honors from college and eventually earned two Master’s degrees, a Certificate of Advanced Study, and a Ph.D. (in Psychology). I have had a successful 35-year career in mental health and addictions treatment (mainly psychology of healing) as well as teaching in higher education (The Ohio State University and The University of Vermont, etc.). I now feel generally good about my accomplishments. Now on to the very famous people you all know; these people made it BIG eventually but had many, many failures along the way. They never gave up!
Abraham Lincoln – “Honest Abe” was perhaps the most effective President in American history. He saved the Union and maintained The United States of America at great cost to himself and others. Here are some of his earlier failures before greatness. When he more of less failed as a business person, he turned his attention to politics. He failed to win election to his state legislature; he failed to win election to Congress; he failed to win appointment as Commissioner of The General Land Office; he failed to win election to the Senate; he failed to win nomination for Vice President in 1856; and, again failed to win election to the Senate a second time. Lincoln never gave up!
Henry Ford – The person who revolutionized the industrial age when he made cars successfully via assembly lines at reasonable costs. However, Henry Ford failed five times; he became bankrupt and in debt before he made it big. Ford never gave up!
Winston Churchill – The iron man of Britain in the second World War. He failed the sixth grade. He never won a public elections despite several attempts until he became Prime Minister at the age of 62. His first major political success was in his 60s. He is remembered for many great things. One important thing we remember about him is his statement about “never, never, never, never give up!” Churchill never gave up!
Charles Darwin – Darwin gave up a medical career to pursue his heart-felt interests in biology and evolution. In his autobiography, he noted that all his teachers and his father considered him to be a very ordinary person and below the common standards of intelligence. Darwin never gave up!
Babe Ruth – He was famous for his generally unmatched home run records. Rust hit 714 home runs; however, on the way he also produced 1,330 strike outs. Do the math! His strike out record was close to 50% of his home run record. Ruth never gave up!
Walt Disney – The most famous of all cartoon and cartoon entertainment innovators. He was fired from a newspaper job because he lacked imagination and had few good ideas. His initial proposal for Disneyland park in Anaheim, California, was rejected by the city due to their belief that up-standing people would never attend such a place. Disney Never gave up!
The Beatles – Perhaps the most successful rock and roll group in the history of the world (some say The Grateful Dead). Decca Records and Columbia Records refused to sponsor the Beatles because they did not like their sound and because guitars were on their way out of popular music. The Beatles never gave up!
Elvis Presley – The “King of Rock and Roll” was fired after one performance by Jimmy Denny at the Grande Old Opry. Elvis was advised to go back to truck driving for his work. He eventually changed music forever. Elvis never gave up!
Thomas Edison – His teachers thought he was dumb. He was fired from his first two jobs due to being un-productive. He made 1,000 attempts to invite the light bulb. He eventually succeeded. Edison never gave up!
Albert Einstein – Famous for his theories about Relativity, he revolutionized the field of physics and astronomy. As a child he was a slow learner, not speaking until age four and not reading until age seven. His teachers noted that he was mentally slow. He was expelled from school, and failed to be accepted at the Zurich Polytechnic School. However, he succeeded in so many grand ways. Einstein never gave up!
This post is not to suggest that any of us may be as great as some the famous people noted above. However, it is testament to being stubborn in the face of adversity, and never giving up. Get up and go onward, over and over and over again. Good luck on your journey.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness
New Edition of Mindful Happiness in Production…Coming soon!