Famous failures

Part of my life story recently has been recovering from ‘failure’ – finding myself on the edge of disaster and finding my way back to success. So much so, that I am working on a new programme which I originally called ‘You’re Not Broken’ – I have been learning some fabulous stuff around the science of failure… and how it clears the way for incredible success.

When I chatted to a girl I met while diving in Fiji, she suggested it should be called “You’re Not Broken – So Quit Your Bitch Ass Whining’ – I suspect it will never end up as that… but who knows?

Anyway, I took a look at some of the successes that we applaud – and how they recovered from failure. See anyone you recognize . . ?

1. Politician who failed to win a seat in the Illinois General Assembly – and then failed spectacularly to even run a general store.

2. Basketball legend, cut from his high school basketball team.

3. Director who applied to attend film school three times but was rejected each time.

4. Author who had his book rejected by 121 publishers.

5. Cartoonist who was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of creativity.

6. Inventor who was told by his teacher he was too stupid to learn anything, and was fired for a laboratory mishap.

7. News anchor fired for being ‘unfit for television news’.

8. Singer who was told he would be better off driving a truck.

9. Engineer turned down for a job by Toyota.

10. Scientist whose father told him he would amount to nothing and would be a disgrace to his family.

11. Musician & composer who was told was ‘hopeless’ by his music teacher.

So, who have we got?

1. Abraham Lincoln

2. Michael Jordan

3. Steven Spielberg

4. Robert M Pirsig (his well known book ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ sold millions around the world)

5. Walt Disney

6. Thomas Edison

7. Oprah Winfrey

8. Elvis Presley

9. Soichiro Honda (founder of the Honda Motor Company)

10. Charles Darwin

11. Beethoven

So if all these people can make it despite being told that they never would – if they can pick themselves up after a spectacularly poor start in their chosen purpose in life… then perhaps when we fail, we can dust ourselves off, stand up straight, learn the lesson we need to – and start again.

I still love the quote I found on a wall in the cosmetics shop ‘Lush’ “We believe in the right to make mistakes, to lose everything and to start again from the beginning”. Perhaps when we say to ourselves “I’m too old or “I’ve tried and failed” or “I’m all washed up” then we should take a look at that . . . and begin again.

One of the best relationship coaches I know went through a spectacularly painful divorce – and she learnt from that experience to bring healing to others. One of the most successful businessmen I know started out as a dishwasher, took to a life of crime and even had his restaurant repossessed for unpaid taxes. Many of our richest businessmen have failed and then rebuilt their empires (anyone remember Alan Sugar’s Amstrad computers or Donald Trump’s multiple business failures?

As Winston Churchill observed “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Too often we simply give up… resigning ourselves to a life of mediocrity and compromise. But it’s a funny thing, you know – as I noticed a while back – when you’ve stared failure in the face – when you’ve chosen to snarl back at the face of defeat and refuse to back down – it’s then that you realise that you can never be afraid of it again.

So maybe it’s time to start again? Where will you begin?

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