By Henrylito D. Tacio
You will never enjoy success if you have never experienced failure at all. Author Truman Capote himself said, “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” To which Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu added, “Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved.”
I have known a lot of individuals who would have been successful in their chosen careers but opted to do otherwise. They didn’t want to get out from their “comfort zones” and instead stayed to be what they were known for. “He who has never failed has never tried,” Emmett LeCompte penned. William A. Ward agreed, “The greatest failure is the failure to try.”
The key word here is: try. William Edward Hickson reminded, “If at first you don’t succeed; try and try and try again.” Let me tell you the story about one of America’s outstanding failures. In 1831, he failed in business. In 1832, he was defeated in legislature. In 1833, he again failed in business. In 1834, he was elected to the Legislature. In 1838, he was defeated for Speaker; in 1840, he was defeated for Elector; and in 1843, he was defeated for Congress. In 1846, he was finally elected to Congress but again defeated for Senate in 1855. In 1856, he ran for Vice-Presidency but was defeated. In 1858, he was defeated for Senate.
But in 1860, he was elected and became the President of the United States. Do you know who this man was? Well, no other than Abraham Lincoln, who once said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
On Lincoln’s failure records, Donald Phillips commented, “Everything – failures as well as successes – became stepping stones to the presidency. In this sense, Lincoln’s entire life prepared him for his future executive leadership role.”
“I’ve never been afraid to fail,” basketball player Michael Jordan said. John Keats has the same view when he wrote, “Failure is in a sense the highway to success, as each discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true.”
This reminds me of the story of Thomas Alva Edison. He tried more than 200 different substances in attempting to find a filament for his incandescent bulb. Someone once said to him, “You have failed more than 200 times; why don’t you give up?” His answer was: “Not at all. I have discovered more than 200 things that will not work. I will soon find one that will.”
The world is replete with stories of successful people who failed in their first attempts. George Washington lost five out of the first seven major battles he fought as he led the hopeless outnumbered and untrained revolutionary army against the British.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill suffered financial ruin more than once while his political career was seemingly aborted on several occasions. He had first woman he had every truly cared for marry another man while two other women rejected his marriage proposal.
Harry Truman’s life was full of setbacks. He and his father suffered bankruptcy. West Point rejected his application. In fact, Truman experienced so many failures as a young man that he once wrote to his sweetheart, Bess, “I can’t possibly lose forever.” He was his party’s fourth choice for senator. He was the underdog in every election he fought. He was so poor that even after he was elected senator, he was forced to use a public health dentist and to sleep occasionally in his car while on the campaign trail.
Referring to German-born American physicist and Nobel laureate Albert Einstein, someone quipped, “He doesn’t wear socks and forgets to cut his hair. Could be mentally retarded.” The same thing happened to Fred Astaire who took a screen test from the testing director at MBM in 1933. The director wrote a memo: “Can’t act! Slightly bald! Can dance a little.” Astaire, who received a special Oscar for his graceful, sophisticated dance style, had that memo framed and hung over the fireplace in his Beverly Hills home.
Mahatma Gandhi was so fearful of public speaking that in his first attempt to represent a client as her lawyer he became tongue-tied when it was time for him to speak in court. The embarrassed lawyer was forced to refund his fee and locate another lawyer for his client.
William A. Ward claims that failure is just the first step in the ladder of success. How come, you may wonder? He explains, “From failure can come valuable experience; from experience – wisdom; from wisdom – mutual trust; from mutual trust – cooperation; from cooperation – united effort; from united effort – success.”
If you think being poor, handicap, or can’t read and write are obstacles to success, you’re wrong! Some of the world’s most successful personalities experienced what you are currently struggling. But they have proven that they can become successful. “Many people fail in life because they believe in the adage: If you don’t succeed, try something else. But success eludes those who follow such advice. Virtually everyone has had dreams at one time or another, especially in youth. The dreams that have come true did so because people stuck to their ambitions. They refused to be discouraged. They never let disappointment get the upper hand. Challenges only spurred them on to greater effort.” That’s what Don B. Owens said.
To end this piece, allow me to quote this poem written by an unknown poet: “Failure does not mean I’m a failure; / it does mean I have not yet succeeded. Failure does not mean I have accomplished nothing; / it does mean I have learned something. Failure does not mean I have been a fool; / it does mean I had enough faith to experiment. / Failure does not mean I have disgraced; / it does mean I have dared to try. Failure does not mean I don’t have it; / it does mean I have something to do in a different way.
“Failure does not mean I am inferior; / it does mean I am not perfect. / Failure does not mean I have wasted my life; / it does mean that I have an excuse to start over. / Failure does not mean that I should give up; / it does mean that I should try harder. / Failure does not mean that I will never make it; / it does mean that I need more practice. / Failure does not mean that you have abandoned me; / it does mean that you must have a better idea.” — ***