Let’s not live too cautiously
The people who know the most about failure are the ones who have succeeded. It’s easy to get into the mentality that the greats have always been great, and that they have always been seen as superior at what they do. That is often far from the truth, but we don’t always hear about it. The greats to whom we have given such high regard have one very important thing in common, and that is persistence. There will be times in life when you are the only one who can see your vision, but that doesn’t make it any less real.
The name that has become synonymous with “genius,” Albert Einstein, didn’t speak until age four and didn’t read until age seven. So for all of you who have to endure the proud parent boasting about their two-year-old who peruses Aristotle on the weekends, forced to wonder whether you’re as smart as this kid is going to be, this one’s for you. Einstein went on to be expelled from school as a child and rejected from his college of choice, Zurich Polytechnic. But at the end of the day, his classmates couldn’t really compete with the theory of relativity.
Walt Disney, the mind behind the movies and parks that shaped many a childhood, apparently lacked imagination. And he was fired by the editor of his local newspaper because of it. His bad luck progressed to include failed business ventures, bankruptcy, and 302 rejections before finally receiving financing for Disney World. So the next time you get rejected, just remember…only 301 more attempts and you’ll be living your dream.
Theodor Seuss Giesel, better known today as Dr. Seuss, was rejected 27 times before his first book, And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street was published. And J.K. Rowling, who is now richer than the Queen of England, went through 12 publishers before one of them took interest in Harry Potter. At the time, she was dirt poor, raising a child as a single parent, severely depressed, and trying to attend school. Here’s what she has to say about her success:
“You might never fail on the scale that I did, but 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.”
Charles Darwin, the scientist who developed the theory of evolution by natural selection, gave up on a medical career and was chastised for being too lazy, for having his head in the clouds. Thomas Edison found 10,000 ways not to make a lightbulb light up before he could find one way that worked.
How often do you think we give up after attempt #9,999?
Winston Churchill was defeated in every single election for public office until age 62 when he ran for Prime Minister. Jerry Seinfeld was booed off the stage the first time he attempted comedy and Fred Astaire was told that he can’t act and can’t sing. Oprah Winfrey was deemed “unfit for TV” before she began the highest-rated talk show in American television history.
Out of more than 800 finished pieces, Vincent Van Gogh sold only a single painting during his lifetime, and that was to a friend for a small amount of money. Today his most expensive painting is valued at $142.7 million. And before Elvis Presley became the King he was fired by the manager of the Grand Ole Opry after only one performance, being told, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son.”
Stephen King received 30 rejections for his novel Carrie before finally throwing it in the trash. His wife dug it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and that was the beginning of 49 novels selling 350 million copies (not to mention essentially having his own bookshelf in Barnes & Noble with his abundance of titles).
Michael Jordan was cut from the high school basketball team. It has been said that he missed more than 9,000 shots throughout his career and lost almost 300 games. He missed what could have been a winning shot on 26 occasions, and to this he says, “I have failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” It’s like how Babe Ruth, who holds the record for strikeouts, says that “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
So next time you get discouraged, consider that it could be your very next attempt that gets you to where you are trying to go, or perhaps it will be the one that propels you to something even better.