Tag Archive for 'failure'

The failure/success connection

Here are three pieces of wisdom which can only come from those who have known failure and from that acquaintance, found success:
In Uncommon Wisdom, my friend, Tom Feltenstein wrote, “When winners fail, they get up and go again. And the very act of getting up is victory”.
Robert Allen, author of Multiple Streams of Income, wrote, “There is no failure, only feedback.”
Paraphrasing Thomas Edison just a little, “Failure is successfully identifying what doesn’t work.”
And since I certainly am no stranger to failure, here is Jim Blasingame’s contribution to understanding its value, “Failure is the harness mate of success, and I expect to be acquainted with both as long as I live.”
You will never enjoy success until you are prepared to risk failure.

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Light and darkness, success and failure

The movement of small business owners throughout their day is a constant transition from darkness to light. When something good happens, our world seems newly illuminated. Every struggle, every setback, seems to cause darkness to return. But we know every dark moment is an opportunity for light. The only question is, will our efforts produce a flicker or a beam? And isn’t not knowing what makes the anticipation sweeter?

Should we long for a life without struggle? Wouldn’t constant light become boring? Remember, the enemy of vision is not darkness, it’s glare.

In one of my favorite books, Anam Cara, my late friend and favorite Irishman, John O’Donohue, wrote, “We are the sons and daughters of the darkness AND the light.” Indeed.

Light and darkness, success and failure — what would be the value of one without the other?


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Don’t forget your second wind

Billy Joel is a pretty fair musician and singer, but he’s a world-class songwriter. He and I wereborn on the same day, so perhaps that’s why I like his words. One of my favorite Joel lyrics is from the song, “Second Wind,” “You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes, but they’re the only things that you can truly call your own.”

We’re not likely to learn much when we succeed because we think it’s a result of our being so smart. Who wants to think about lessons when there’s so much self-congratulating to do, right?

When we fail, we have more time to reflect on what happened because there’s less celebrating. Use the time wisely; don’t wallow around feeling sorry for yourself. Claim your failures. Remember what Billy said, “… they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own.”

All of the great minds of history were well acquainted with failure. There are so many examples of world-changing discoveries that resulted from perseverance in the ace of bitter, demoralizing failures. Thomas Edison is said to have observed that, “Failure is successfully identifying what doesn’t work.” What if your last failure is actually a discovery of something that no one else knows?

In one of my favorite books, The Words Lincoln Lived By, by my friend, Gene Griessman, I found this Lincoln quote on adversity, “I find quite as much materials for a lecture in those points wherein I have failed, as in those wherein I have been moderately successful.”

So, it’s official: You learn more from your failures than from your successes. And if you don’t believe me and Billy, you have to believe Honest Abe.

I’ll leave you with the chorus to Billy’s song. “Don’t forget your second wind. Sooner or later you’ll feel that momentum kick in.” Think of these words next time you fail.

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Never Give Up!

Did you know that Michael Jordan was cut from his junior high varsity basketball team?
Never give up!

Did you know that Dr. Seuss pitched his now-classic children’s book, Green Eggs and Ham, to 27 publishers before it was accepted and ultimately millions sold?
Never give up!

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln lost six elections before becoming one of the most important presidents in U.S. history?
Never give up!

Did you know that Henry Ford went broke five times before he found success — at age 51?
Never give up!

Robert Allen wrote, “There is no failure, only feedback.”
Never give up!

Thomas Edison said, “Failure is successfully discovering what doesn’t work.”
Never give up!

Any questions?

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Small business survival lessons from Abraham Lincoln

Many years ago I discovered the list of failures and setbacks Abraham Lincoln endured in his life. When I first read the list I was overwhelmed by two emotions: 1) Sadness - that any one person would experience so many bad things; 2) Admiration - that anyone could have accomplished so much in the face of so much adversity.

Here’s a short list – there actually are several more – of the life challenges of Abraham Lincoln
• He failed in business in 1831.
• He was defeated for state legislator in ‘32.
• He tried another business in ‘33. It failed.
• His fiancee died in ‘35.
• He had a nervous breakdown in ‘36.
• In ‘43 he ran for Congress and was defeated.
• He tried again in ‘48 and was defeated again.
• He tried running for the Senate in ‘55. He lost.
• The next year he ran for Vice President and lost.
• In ‘59 he ran for the Senate again and was defeated.
• In 1860 he was elected the16th President of the United States.

According to Gene Griessman, Lincoln scholar (www.presidentlincoln.com) and a member of my Brain Trust, in the nine years after critics completely wrote him off as a political player, Abraham Lincoln accomplished leadership feats and professional successes that were nothing short of heroic and for which he is still generally recognized as one of the two greatest American presidents.

Lincoln has taught us that the difference between history’s boldest accomplishments and its most staggering failures is often simply the diligence and will to persevere.

As we enter 2009, the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday and a year that will definitely challenge our diligence and will, if you’re ever tempted to slump into a self-involved pity party, go back and re-read Lincoln’s failures and setbacks. This time you’ll feel two other emotions: 1) Shame - that you allowed yourself to lapse into a funk; 2) Renewed perseverance – now remembering that like Lincoln, as long as you’re alive, every new day that you show up to work on your business and life could be the day that you turn the corner.

So, what advice would President Lincoln offer small business owners about dealing with economic challenges? Gene Griessman offered a number of words of wisdom from Lincoln when he joined me recently on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. In addition to being a Lincoln scholar, Gene is also one of the world’s top Lincoln portrayers. I think you’ll benefit from hearing our conversation.

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