It has been said that failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.
It may motivate you more toward your own goals to know that some of the most famous and well-known people in modern times had to overcome obstacles as difficult as anyone's before they finally reached the top. It takes persistence and total commitment to your goals, but it's possible.
Thomas Edison's father called him a "dunce." His headmaster in school told Edison he would never make a success of anything.
Henry Ford barely made it through high school.
The machines of the world's greatest inventor, Leonardo da Vinci, were never built, and many wouldn't have worked anyway.
Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid Land camera, failed absolutely at developing instant movies. He described his attempts as trying to use an impossible chemistry and a nonexistent technology to make an unmanufacturable product for which there was no discernable demand. These hurdles, in his opinion, created the optimum working conditions for the creative mind.
Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State University football team, was asked by the media how he felt when his team lost a game. He rapidly replied that losing was probably good for the team, since that was how the players learned what they were doing wrong.
Setbacks and failures mean little or nothing in themselves. The whole meaning of any setback — or any success, for that matter — is in how we take it and what we make of it.
We often look at high achievers and assume they had a string of lucky breaks or made it without much effort. Usually the opposite is true, and the so-called superstar or "overnight success" had an incredibly rough time before he or she attained any lasting success.
You may not know the background of a certain laundry worker who earned $60 a week at his job but had the burning desire to be a writer. His wife worked nights, and he spent nights and weekends typing manuscripts to send to publishers and agents. Each one was rejected with a form letter that gave him no assurance that his manuscript had even been read. I've received a few of those special valentines myself through the years, and I can tell you firsthand that they're not the greatest self-esteem builders.
But finally, a warm, more personal rejection letter came in the mail to the laundry worker, stating that, although his work was not good enough at this point to warrant publishing, he had promise as a writer and he should keep writing.
He forwarded two more manuscripts to the same friendly-yet-rejecting publisher over the next 18 months, and, as before, he struck out with both of them. Finances got so tight for the young couple that they had to disconnect their telephone to pay for medicine for their baby.
Feeling totally discouraged, he threw his latest manuscript into the garbage. His wife, totally committed to his life goals and believing in his talent, took the manuscript out of the trash and sent it to Doubleday, the publisher who had sent the friendly rejections. The book, titled Carrie, sold more than 5 million copies and, as a movie, became one of the top-grossing films in 1976. The laundry worker, of course, was Stephen King.
Think back to a time in your life you have found difficult. Try to see what you gained as a result of what you learned, what strength you found even in the most trying time — or what strength you find now in your having overcome it. Perhaps you may never have been aware of what you gained until you think about it now. The Chinese have a saying: "Eat bitter to taste sweet." It means that by living through painful times, we can become stronger people. I certainly agree with this, and the transformation depends on our ability to discover something beyond the pain.
A Compelling 'Why'
I have a suitcase for you. In that suitcase there is $1 million in cash. The suitcase is sitting in a building that is about an hour's drive from where you are now.
Here is the deal: All you have to do is get to this building in the next two hours. If you get there before the end of the two hours, I will hand you the suitcase, and you will be a million dollars richer.
There is one catch, however. If you are even one second late, our deal is off, and you will not get a dime. No exceptions! With that in mind, what time would you like to leave?
Most people would respond to that scenario by saying that they would leave right now. Wouldn't you?
So off you go. You jump into your car and start driving for the building. You are excited and are already starting to plan how you are going to spend your million dollars. Then, suddenly, the traffic comes to a complete stop. You turn on the radio and find that there has been a series of freak accidents between you and the building, and there is no way to get there!
Now what would you do? Would you give up and go back home? Or would you get out of your car and walk, run, hire a helicopter, or find some other way of getting to the building on time?
Now let's suppose for a minute that you are driving to an appointment at your dentist's office. The traffic again comes to a stop. Amazingly, there have been freak accidents between you and your dentist's office. What would you do then? Probably give up, go home, and reschedule!
What is the difference between these two situations? It all comes down to why. If the why is big enough, the how is usually not a problem. This compelling why is connected to your personal objectives, mission statement, or magnificent obsessions. It is the basis of your motivational support beam. Truly motivated people are able to identify and tap into the power of a compelling why in everything they do.