I’ve learnt over the past few years that sometimes winning at life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and if somebody tells me that I’m a loser I’m far more inclined to say thank you very much.
I don’t say this because I want to be unsuccessful at everything I do in life, but because I really do believe that all of the best successes in the world are built upon countless failures. There is such a thing as getting lucky but these kind of successes are few and far between. The most common kind of success seems to come after countless failures on the part of the person that has just cracked it. The problem is that the rest of us only see the moment when everything falls into place.
I started thinking about this when I was looking for a new podcast to listen to and I came across a popular one called How To Fail. The idea behind it was to interview famous people about their past failures and how it has shaped their current career. Scrolling through the list of people who were interviewed from week to week, I saw that some of the people who I look up to the most were on there. These were people that I idolised and I’ve always felt like I could only hope for a fraction of their success in life. It made me realise how inclined we are to forget that people sometimes struggle for decades before they get their big break and we may never know about any of that long slog that went into getting there.
I have long hated the term ‘overnight success’ because I think that it compounds this idea that we can just make it big by luck, when this is very rarely the case. Even with shows like X Factor and the likes, the people on there have normally put in the groundwork if they are going to do well. The ones that haven’t are normally the ones that we all laugh at in the audition process because they come across as a little bit deluded.
And then you have to question what a person gets out of it if they just get success that is overnight. It’s the work that is put in that makes the success all the more sweet. I was a swimmer as a child and there were some exceptionally talented kids who didn’t put a whole lot of work in and it didn’t look as though they were all that chuffed when they won. I, on the other hand, had no natural talent, but I worked bloody hard and my little face would be lit up like I’d won the lottery even if I managed to scrape a bronze medal.
The process of losing also teaches you so much about yourself and how to get better at something. You often hear billionaire business owners say that they had ten plus businesses that failed before they hit the jackpot. The process of failing, not only taught them resilience, but it also gave them the chance to tweak the problems in earlier business models. Without the ten failed businesses that had come before it, their successful one may not have survived either. We need the people who are willing to experiment and potentially fail if we are to move forward as a human race.
And finally, the failure does make you a bit more human. I found that I really enjoyed the podcast because it was nice to hear these successful people talk about the times that they had fucked up. There are so many times in life that you feel like you’re banging your head up against a wall so it’s nice to know that they’ve felt this too. It makes for stories that are both entertaining and inspiring and that is quite heartwarming.
The bible is also quite clear on trying again and again even when you are afraid of failure. The overriding message that seems to shine through is that if it is to be used for good, then push on with it even if you are scared. There may be so many things that frighten you into backing away from your dreams but it is important to remember that God is with you and you have no need to be afraid if your heart is in the right place. It might feel like you have used up every last ounce of strength and it has ended in yet another failure but it is always possible to pick yourself back up again because as stated in Isaiah 40:31 ‘Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.’
So next time somebody tells you that your work is crap and that you’re a complete failure, just smile to yourself and go away and continue to work hard. You may have to try things in a completely new way but if you are working on something that you’re passionate about this shouldn’t be a problem. And if you try enough times, you never know, you might just become the next JK Rowling or Steve Jobs.