The last time you had to struggle enormously?
A time when you barely finished your project, assignment and were left with nothing but exhaustion, frustration and unhappiness.
A time when you thought, “This is it. I can’t do it anymore.”
I bet you can. In fact, I bet you can think of more than one such incident.
Why is this?
Even though we all want to run, or even gallop towards success, often when we think about some of the greatest moments in our lives, it’s not success that we recollect, it our failures, our weaknesses and our breakdowns. Does this mean that we are a breed of thoroughly pessimistic and masochistic people who give more weightage to failures than accomplishments? Maybe… Maybe not! But if we do, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Because these are the moments when we decided not to back down, to learn and to grow. Even though we might have struggled at one point of time, we overcame our hurdles and can now look back and feel satisfied, maybe even surprised at the way we conquered our impediments.
One of the greatest authors of our time and a personal favourite of mine, J.K Rowling gave the following words of wisdom at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association:
“You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
When one hears her name, one cannot possibly fathom her ever failing at something. After all she is United Kingdom's best-selling author, with sales in excess of £238m. But in her own words, she has experienced failure at a, ‘grand scale’.
Before, Harry Potter became a household name, Rowling was penniless, recently divorced, and raising a child on her own, she wrote the first Harry Potter book on an old manual typewriter. Not one, or three or five but twelve publishers rejected her manuscript. Eventually, Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, agreed to publish the book but advised her to find another job as, ‘there was no money in children’s books’.
Rowling’s success came after her various bouts with failure and she wasn’t the only one.
The King of Cartoons: Walt Disney’s first animation company went bankrupt. A newspaper editor fired him for, ‘lacking imagination’ and ‘having no original ideas’. His theme park idea was trashed times. But he never gave up.
Vincent Van Gogh: He only sold one painting in his lifetime that too, to a friend. In spite of that he kept painting and finished over 800 pieces. Today, his most expensive painting is valued at $142.7 million.
Michael Jordan: One of the world’s greatest basketball players, Jordan’s name is synonymous with basketball. However, he was cut from his high school basketball team but he did not let this failure deter him.
Thomas Edison: This list would be incomplete without the man who gave us many inventions including the light bulb. He too, never ever gave up.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Young Beethoven wasn’t good at playing the violin and neglected to practice as he preferred to work on his own compositions. Despite his love of composing, his teachers felt he was hopeless and would never succeed with the violin or in composing. Beethoven kept plugging along, and composed some of the best symphonies of all time–five of them while he was completely deaf.
As is evident from the above list, failure hits us all. The more we try to avoid it, the more it latches onto us like a parasite draining us of our strength, enthusiasm and happiness. The fault however, may lie within us. We are always trying to dodge failure, elude and escape it. But for once, try and embrace it. When you stumble upon failure, or make a mistake, it’s imperative to accept it and understand that it is absolutely acceptable to fail. Don’t make your mistakes, ‘an end of my life tragic melodrama’. Acknowledge that you did not succeed this time and that it is perfectly alright. Do not let the people or the situation around you make you feel dejected and unhappy.
Part of accepting failure is also accepting that you may be at fault. Do not pin your failures on, ‘fate’, ‘circumstances’, other people or the almighty. He has enough things to take care of and does not have the time to ensure that you fail in every undertaking that you take. Instead of accusing and attributing your failure to any and everything else, take a step back. Try to analyse why you did not accomplish your goal and where you might have gone wrong.
Do not relinquish at this stage. You might feel desolate and depressed. After all it is not easy accepting one’s own faults or perhaps finding faults where there aren’t any, (as in the case of Rowling). But Do Not Give Up. Find the courage to move on. Find a reason to move on. What’s more, you don’t have to do this alone. Ask for help. It maybe for ideas, other’s views and opinions or simply for emotional support from friends and family. Don’t shun your helpers.
Once you find the reason to move ahead (and you will find it), re-evaluate your objectives. If they are still the same, great. If not, think clearly and deeply about what exactly you want. Easier said than done. However, if you stay true to yourself you will discover it.
After you find your goal, plan, and plan well. Your previous failures and mistakes have already cut your work short. They have taught you the right from the wrong, what exactly to avoid, helped you gain a deeper understanding and provided you with the knowledge that you seek. But most importantly, if you are at this step, your failures have taught you to be resilient and given you an opportunity to grow and learn some more. They have given you the power to be a fighter and a survivor. Use it well.
Follow through your plan, soar above all the obstacles because now you are ready to run and bolt towards your success. Always remember that failure and success are two sides of the same coin. In life’s toss you can never predict which side the coin will land on. Don’t let a series of successes fool you. Always be prepared to taste some disappointments and at the same time remember to not give up and face the challenges head on. It’s really one of those simple truths of life: To succeed, you must fail.
So next time when you find yourself on a cliff overlooking a sea of disasters, mistakes and failures, here’s what you should do.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and JUMP.