Part of cultivating a good life is redefining what failure means to you and embracing it for exactly what it is.
Odd topic, perhaps. But let’s go there. I do want to talk about FAILURE.
The simple definition of failure = “lack of success.” I’m going to share a few examples with you and you can decide for yourself if you feel that failure is truly the lack of success.
WALT DISNEY. Do you like Disney movies? Have you been to a Disney park? He pretty much redefined American childhood. Did you know that Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”? Several more of his businesses failed before the premiere of his movie Snow White.
STEVE JOBS. Do you have an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV, or Apple computer in your home? Did you know that Steve Jobs was actually fired from Apple at one point?
THOMAS EDISON. Do you enjoy having LIGHT? Do you like watching movies? Do you like MAKING movies? Did you know that Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything”? Edison went on to be fired from his first two jobs for not being suitably productive. We know that Edison went on to hold more than 1,000 patents and invented some world-changing devices, like the phonograph, practical electrical lamp, and a movie camera. This famous American is attributed with failing over 10,000 times to invent a commercially viable electric lightbulb, but he didn’t give up. When asked by a newspaper reporter if he felt like a failure and if he should give up, after having gone through over 9,000 failed attempts, Edison simply stated, “Why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitely over 9,000 ways an electric lightbulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.”
J.K. ROWLING. Do you love the Harry Potter books and movies? Did you know she became the first billionaire author in 2004? Did you also know that she was a single mom living off welfare when she began writing the first Harry Potter novel?
DR. SEUSS. Do you and / or your children like his books? The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham … there are so many. His books have sold over 600 million copies. Did you know that he had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers?
I don’t aspire to be as famous as any of these people, but just like most of you, I do know something about success and failure.
I was teased as a teenager for not partying like the rest of them as they experimented with harmful substances … but I am so grateful to have kept my mind and body clear of all of that. And now there are hundreds of thousands of you around the globe opting to follow my social media, receive my emails, and buy my products. So maybe I wasn’t “cool” by their standards, but the bigger picture of a happier life was always on my mind.
I got a D in high school photography … but I created a product that helps to save millions of photographs. And ironically, I regularly share photo tips.
I failed freshman English in college … but I re-took the class, got an A, and went on to write and publish 9 books.
When the economy was going down and the memory-keeping industry was looking like it might tank, I started a business in said “tanking market” which has flourished and is helping countless people preserve their memories around the globe.
My husband and I had years of failed attempts to start a family. Through a lot of challenging experiences and discomfort from endless tests and procedures … we finally became pregnant with Porter … and then Claire and then Crew joined our family as well. Our children are our greatest successes.
I like to think about failure because it helps me recognize and acknowledge my personal successes — big and small. Failure WILL happen. But I don’t say that to leave you feeling discouraged or depressed. Quite the opposite! I hope that these stories inspire you.
We all need to expect bumps in the road. We should expect failed attempts. WHY?? Because remembering this reality equips us so we’re mentally and emotionally ready to pick ourselves back up when it happens. We should accept responsibility when it happens. We should learn from our mistakes and do better next time when it happens. Without struggles, we can not progress.
So … back to the definition of failure. “Lack of success.” Really??
I say the definition of failure = An opportunity to LEARN and GROW; failure is an opportunity to build character. I just turned 40 on Friday and as I’ve reflected on my years of many ups and downs, I am grateful for every. single. bit of challenge that I’ve faced because those experiences are part of who I am. Failures. Successes. They’re all a part of my story.
I would absolutely love to hear about one of your “failures” that helped to strengthen your character.