The art of failing forward toward success…

Sunflower close-up

I am afraid to fail. Just like many others I fear rejection and I dread getting the “NO” from people. I have spent many nights agonizing over this fear of rejection or failure on several issues. Relationships, business decisions, interviews, presentations, meeting new people, taking risks and the list of things I fear failing in is endless. But I have learned that that’s life and facing such realities and negative possibilities in everything I do is given. In every step we take towards progress there is an element of fear and a possibility of failure. And this reality is not going to stop me from trying.

Although I majored in Marketing, I always dreaded the idea of ending up becoming a sales person due to the fear of rejection. For me, marketing was anti sales. With marketing, I believed that I will be developing products and services that will address the needs and wants of consumers. And sales was shoving a product or service down the throats of consumers who do not have a need or a want for them. But as all fresh graduates who get out of Universities bustling with fresh text book wisdom and the “nothing can stop me now” attitude, reality thought me many good lessons on humility and facts. The biggest lesson of them all was the fact that we are all sales people. We are constantly selling our ideas, humor, personality, talent, love, character, dignity and wisdom for many wonderful things in return all through our lives to different kinds of people. But because we need other peoples love, trust, faith in us etc, we relentlessly pursue this without the fear of rejection or failure. And in this pursuit at times many of us become better people.

What if we never tried to get these things? Would others love us, value us, get impressed by us, or give us a job if we never tried earning them? Nothing ventured, nothing gained! The fear of a negative outcome only stops us if we allow it to. If we are in need or desire something strongly, then we often let go of this fear readily without any inhibitions.

To reach the port of heaven, we must sail, sometimes with the wind, sometimes against it – but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

The odds of getting something are only possible if we do something about getting it. If we never do anything to try and something in life there is a 100% chance that we will never get it. It’s a 100% guarantee that we will never achieve anything if we never try achieving it. But if we attempt to get something in life and we take action towards getting it, there is a 50% chance that we may get it or not. There is a 50% chance that the other person will say “Yes” or a 50% chance it will be a “no”. And we all can agree that 50% odds of getting it are certainly much better than a 100% guarantee of not getting it. And if we happen to fail and learn, we can only increase our odds the next time around by doing more things that increases the chances of succeeding.

We are progressive people by nature. We have evolved thus far as a race. We grow, learn and progress as individuals all through our lives. And we constantly face changes and new things all through our lives. In fact we even face the un known realm of death and what, if anything, lies beyond death. There are just two things that are constant in life. 1) Change and 2) facing the unknown. And the fear of a negative outcome, failure or rejection will never stop these two things of coming our way consistently all through our lives. We will face new people, we will have to win over new friends, make now relationships, take new directions in life, do things out of our comfort zone, and face many “no’s” along with several “Yes” in our lives.

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do. ~ Henry Ford

So move on, progress, and take that dreaded step forward. Never let the possibility of a negative outcome turn into a fear and stop you from progress in your life. Increase your odds from 0 to 50% and beyond. Get that new job, go for that interview, propose to that love you want to win, apologize to that person who you wronged, start that business you always wanted to, speak your mind, express your ideas, and give it a chance to come alive and succeed. Do not strangle your desires with inaction. Always remember that nothing ventured will always result in nothing gained. And those who did venture, often gained. No one has ever succeeded in life without trying. The next time you feel like doing something in life and fear rejection, think things out carefully, and take the step forward. You will only increase your odds of success by 50% which is far better than a 100% guarantee of failure. But remember to learn from your failures and improve yourself towards success constantly.

Two sure ways to fail: Think and never do, or do and never think. ~ Zig Ziglar

If you really need to understand the nature of life lessons and conquer failure, you need to start reading biographies of famous people. I find biographies very interesting because it shows how almost every person who achieved something in life also had to face failures, complex obstacles and the draw courage after some bitter experiences. This also helps me understand that if it can happen to them, I dare not expect the path to any success to be a walk in the park. Also biographies teaches one thing over and over again about success: while you may fall and get hurt, you will have to pick yourself up, dust yourself and get back on the path. Every good jockey is made of several falls and some broken bones.

Here are some impressive failures and rejections that helps prove my point:

Abraham Lincoln – One of the most amazing and often referred to. Former US president Abraham Lincoln, lost his fiancé, had a nervous breakdown, first went into politics at the age of 23 when he campaigned for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly and failed. He was defeated in 8 elections. He once also opened a general store which failed after only a few months.

Robert M Pirsig – His well known book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was rejected by 121 publishers. Since finally being published in 1974 it has gone on to sell millions of copies in 27 languages.

Michael Jordan – A well publicized and well known fact about the most famous name in basketball was actually cut from his high school basketball team.

John Wayne – Before his successful acting career he was rejected from the United States Naval Academy.

Steven Spielberg – This household name dropped out of high school and applied to attend film school three times but was unsuccessful due to his C grade average.

Beethoven – His music teacher once told him that he was a hopeless composer.

Harry S. Truman – This former USP resident was rejected by the US Military & Naval Academies due to his poor eyesight. At one point he was a clerk in a newspaper mailroom, and also an usher in a movie theater.

Babe Ruth – This baseball legend struck out 1,330 times.

Henry Ford – The Ford Motor Co was Henry Ford’s third business, the first two didn’t work out.

Winston Churchill – This former British Prime Minister did poorly in school and had a speech impediment in his early years.

Marilyn Monroe – Marilyn Monroe spent much of her younger years in foster homes. One of her first jobs, during the Second World War, was inspecting parachutes. Producer told her she was “unattractive” and could not act.

Walt Disney – He was fired by the editor of a newspaper for lacking in ideas.

Soichiro Honda – The founder of Honda was turned down for an engineering job by Toyota after World War Two.

Charles Darwin – His father told him he would amount to nothing and would be a disgrace to himself and his family.

Albert Einstein – He learned to speak at a late age and performed poorly in school.

Thomas Edison – As a boy he was told by his teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything.

Isaac Newton- He failed at running the family farm and did poorly in school.

The Vice President of Columbia told this actor that he was never going to make it in the business. The actor? – Harrison Ford

Turned down by a recording company saying “We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out” They were talking about the Beatles

Were told by Publishers that “anthologies didn’t sell” and the book was “too positive” Rejected a total of 140 times. The book? Chicken Soup for the Soul. It now has 65 different titles and has sold over 80 million copies all over the world.

Was not allowed to wait on customers in the store he worked in because “he didn’t have enough sense” – F. W. Woolworth

Auditioned for All My Children and got rejected – Julia Roberts

Received 30 rejections and the author threw it in the trash. Luckily his wife fished it out again and encouraged him to resubmit it. The book was Carrie – the author Stephen King

So increase your odds towards success. Fail forward! As long as you keep failing FORWARD you are progressing and getting ahead. It is perhaps and often the only way to get ahead. So let not rejection, fear of failure, and criticism detter you from achieving your dreams. Build your dreams on good faith, high morals and noble intentions, fuel it with courage, perseverence and focus, and move it with action, dettermination and consistent efforts. These steps will build character, refine your spirit, and clear your mind. These are the defining steps that builds great men and women. This is what makes you join the group of extraordinary fromthe ordinary. Take the 50% odds of success everytime and anytime you get a chance. Be bold enough to Fail FORWARD!!!!