If you’ve been reading my columns for a while, I’m sure you have figured out that many of the issues I write about are issues I am personally working on. Yes, for those who are regular readers, by now, you now know me well. Forgiveness, death, rejection, living in the present, just to name a few. I recognize if it is a struggle for me, it is something many of you are also grappling with.
I’ll begin this column with a confession. I’ve always struggled with the idea of failure.
As with most of our life struggles, the label we place on issues often dictate our feelings. Failure is a damaging label. “I failed,” or worse, “I am a failure,” are words that should never come out of our mouth. Remove them from your vocabulary. Believing we have failed is a statement of emotion more often than fact.
When our emotions lead us to believe we have failed, we believe the quest is over. We quit trying and a lack of success is the result. But sometimes our emotions lead us into places that aren’t rational. Our emotions are chemical reactions brought about by our brains feeling something is wrong or right. Emotions do not cause us to make accurate decisions based upon fact. The chemicals block us from thinking logically and often encourage us to make quick decisions that are not always in our best interest.
We encounter an obstacle that seems insurmountable … the chemicals in our brain kick in. We see no way around the problem and we quickly identify our efforts as “failure” and we quit. We then become disappointed, discouraged and, often, depressed.
What does it mean to fail? The best description I can find is simply “not achieving success.”
“It’s hard to beat a person who won’t quit.” — Babe Ruth
George Herman Ruth … “The Babe” … “The Bambino” … “The Sultan of Swat” … arguably the greatest home run hitter of all-time, was not viewed by those who knew him as a philosopher or deep thinker. He was an uneducated, uncultured and quite unrefined athlete. Most of what came out of his mouth was usually not suitable for mixed company. Regardless, this quote is profoundly true.
The movie “Rocky” isn’t a true story, but I think it’s the best tale I know that shows the success that can be obtained by not quitting. Rocky Balboa, an aged amateur fighter with limited skills and ability, had no business being in the ring with the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Apollo Creed, but what Rocky was missing in talent and ability, he made up in shear determination. Rocky kept getting up every time he was knocked down. Rocky didn’t give up and he overcame. He didn’t win the match, but went the distance, which was his goal. Rocky succeeded.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” — Thomas Edison
The story is told that Thomas Edison tried and failed to make the first light bulb over 10,000 times. He didn’t quit but forged ahead. When asked about his thousands of failures, Edison responded, “I didn’t fail. I succeeded at finding ten thousand light bulbs that didn’t work!” The rest is history and Thomas Edison is historically one of the world’s most prolific inventors. Edison’s determination changed the world.
So how do we learn to overcome failure? For me, it was as simple as removing the label and looking for the examples of those who overcame failure to succeed.
I found those examples in the lives and words of a most unlikely pairing of winners … Thomas Edison and Babe Ruth.
Remove the label. Defy the lie. Refuse to call or think of your inability to succeed at something as failure. Adopt Edison’s attitude and just confess you succeeded at not finding a path to your success.
Then adapt Babe Ruth’s philosophy and don’t quit trying.
Delete the word failure from your vocabulary and never give up and, above all, remain optimistic that success can be yours …
Because it can.
GARY W. MOORE is a freelance columnist, speaker and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at www.garywmoore.com