Yesterday’s Failure:Tomorrow’s Success

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Yesterday’s Failure:Tomorrow’s Success

I didn’t make the steps. I really don’t like the word failed, but that’s what I did. I failed the steps. If I had passed, I would have tracked a million of the little critters between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This is my fourth year. I have never not met my goal.


As is probably typical with people who fail in some way, I kicked myself for having had the confidence to believe I would succeed in the first place. Next, I kicked myself for having told anyone that I would be attempting it. Next, I kicked myself for not being better prepared.


By the time I took the final count of the steps (695,733 to be exact), I was pretty black and blue from all that kicking.


I wanted to say, “I’ll never try that again. In fact, I think I’ll just stop writing and blogging. Hey, while I’m at it, maybe I’ll just take myself off Facebook, too.” Wah, wah, wah. I knew better. I knew I didn’t have it in me to withdraw from so many things that give me such pleasure.


I have spent my life encouraging my family, colleagues, friends—anyone I’ve run across who has failed at something—to get up, dust themselves off, and try again. I have reminded them that they were further along than people who hadn’t yet found the courage to try.


Failure makes you grow. Makes you stronger. More resilient. I have always reasoned that, if you can learn from it and do better the next time, you haven’t really, truly failed.


What would I be if I couldn’t follow my own advice?


I knew I wasn’t the only one to ever have failed. Cripes, just in my one itty-bitty life, I have failed countless times at countless things. But it felt good to find myself in good company with a lot of really famous folks:


  • Walt Disney. Who doesn’t know this name? Yet when he came on the scene, fresh from a little town in Missouri in the early 1920s, it took awhile for people to notice him or realize his genious. He was fired by a newspaper editor early on because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Disney started a number of businesses that failed. He lost everything he had accumulated three or four times before he finally landed his spot in the entertainment industry. Disney’s dream of a clean and organized amusement park came true when Disneyland Park opened in 1955. The $17-million Magic Kingdom soon increased its investment tenfold. His worldwide popularity grew from his ideals: imagination, optimism, creation, and self-made success in the American tradition. Through his work he brought joy, happiness, and a universal means of communication to people of every nation. Imagine if his first failure had kept Disney from trying again.


  • Thomas Alva Edison was the most prolific inventor in American history. He amassed a record 1,093 patents covering key innovations and minor improvements in a wide range of fields, including telecommunications, electric power, sound recording, motion pictures, primary and storage batteries, and mining and cement technology. He broadened the notion of invention to encompass what we now call innovation-invention, research, development, and commercialization and invented the industrial research laboratory. Yet, in his early years, teachers told Edison he was, “too stupid to learn anything.” Work was no better, as he was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive enough. Even as an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. 1,000 tries…imagine if he had given up.


  • This Nobel Prize-winning, twice-elected Prime Minster of the United Kingdom wasn’t always as well regarded as he is today. Winston Churchill struggled in school and failed the sixth grade. He faced many years of political failures, defeated in every election for public office until he finally became the Prime Minister at the ripe old age of 62. He is particularly remembered for his indomitable spirit while leading Great Britain to victory in World War II. His homeland was in the greatest depths of despair when Churchill stirred the spirits with his Never Give In speech in 1941.  In part, he said, ”Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Where would we be, if this man had given up and given in?


  • Few would argue whether Fred Astaire was the greatest American dancer ever seen on film. Born to a wealthy Omaha family, he began his popular vaudeville dance act with his sister Adele at the age of seven. Ironically, Adele was known as the stronger, more talented of the two. Fred remained in her shadow until she retired from dancing in 1931. In his first screen test, MGM’s testing director noted that Astaire, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire went on to become an incredibly successful actor, singer and dancer and kept that note in his Beverly Hills home to remind him of where he came from. Over the course of his long film career, he appeared in 212 musical numbers, of which 133 contain fully developed dance routines, a high percentage of which are of great artistic value, a contribution unrivaled in films and with few parallels in the history of dance. Imagine the fulfillment we would have missed out on without his art.


  • Since the early 1970s, Stephen King has been America’s most famous horror writer. His books are a mainstay of paperback bookracks, spawning a multi-media franchise that includes movies, TV shows, video games and comic books. He turns out an average of one novel a year. Yet before he could realize his dream, he knew his share of failure. After the 30th rejection of the iconic thriller Carrie, King decided to give up on writing. He threw the manuscript in the trash, accepting his position as a teacher as his lot in life. It was his wife who fished the work out and prodded him to resubmit it. Thanks to the encouragement of one he loved, King is now known as one of the best-selling authors of all time.


Why do we try to hide our failure? We need to be okay with it, not only with others but with ourselves. Maybe we’ll all inch a little closer to getting our lives together in the process.


Enjoy your week. Enjoy this blog.


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photo credit: <a href=””>Mr.TinDC</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

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One Comment

  1. Very good post. I JUST (I mean just before reading this, kind of spooky) wrote about this topic. You are so right. We need to share our failures and you should be proud of 695,733 steps that you DID take instead of the ones you didn’t. I so related to this.

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