Fighting Failure

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

J. K. Rowling 

J. K. Rowling 

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

What do Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Dr. Seuss, Vincent van Gogh, J.K Rowling and Oprah Winfrey have in common?

You may be tempted to say all these individuals are very successful individuals. People of success. Let’s take a further look.

Before Walt Disney got the idea of Disneyland off the ground and financed, he got rejected 302 times.

Vincent van Gogh, the famous artist. Do you know how many paintings he sold in his lifetime? He only sold one painting in his lifetime! Now everyone wants to buys them and his most expensive painting is valued at $142 million.

Dr. Seuss, famous author gave us Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. When tried to release his first book; 27 different publishers rejected and was successful #28.

J. K Rowling’s first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 12 publishing houses.

Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first television job as an anchor in Baltimore, a Baltimore TV producer reportedly told her she was “unfit for television news.”  Winfrey eventually became the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show which aired for 25 seasons and she is currently worth $2.9 billion.

Do you know how many times Thomas Edison invented a light bulb that did not work? 1000 times or as he said, “I did not fail. I just found 2000 ways not to make a light bulb; I only need to find one to make it work.”

Failure is an inevitable part of success and even though we don’t like to talk about our failures, we prefer to listen to other people’s stories of failure especially people who we look up to because it gives us hope.

Our failures are not going to determine our life.  Our response to failure is what is going to count.  

The only person who expects you to be perfect is you. The only person who is shocked when you fail is you. Take a survey. Ask your partner, ask your boss, co-workers, parents. Do they expect you to be perfect? 

How do we usually respond to failure? We numb it out. We want to anesthetize ourselves. And there is evidence: we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in history. Why do we do it? Because we feel bad and we need to feel better about ourselves even if it is for a day. The problem is that you can’t numb the pain. Numbing the pain won’t make the pain go away.  This stems from a fear of not being good enough or being found out as a failure, the fear that we are not worthy. The more afraid we are, the more we want to  numb and it becomes a dangerous cycle.

But how do we break that cycle?

Brené Brown, a researcher in topic of shame found in her research that it came down to was a sense of worthiness. This sense of worthiness separated the people in her studies, those who have a strong sense of love and belonging and those who struggle for it always wondering if they are good enough. The good news is that it is not the circumstances that made the two groups different, but their mindset.

It comes down to distinguishing between two ideas: Reality and Truth.  Reality is what we see and Truth is what we know. Reality is: “I have failed.” But Truth is: ”I am NOT a failure.” Reality says: “You can’t win.” Truth says: “You can’t lose.” Do you see the difference?  Reality and truth are not contrary of each other. Reality is what you see, truth is what you don’t always see. Reality will sometimes beat us down, but truth can bring us up.  

What will define your character in life is not your success but your response to your failure. All of us will be knocked down, but all of us has a decision we make when we are knocked down.  Reality says: “You don’t deserve a second chance.” Is reality, right? Who will you listen to?

References

Brown, B. (June 2010). The power of vulnerability. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability/transcript?language=en