Failing to Succeed

I’ve spent the better part of the last 10 days either hiking some amazing mountain trails or marveling at their beauty from a shore or the balcony of our cabin as we cruised through Alaska. It’s been an amazing experience. Alaska and Denali have long been on my bucket list and they exceeded my highest expectations.

In the middle of one of my staring contest with a passing mountain range, I looked over at my husband and asked, “How? How can there be so much beauty and wonder in this world and so many people focusing solely on shit all the time? How is God such an amazing sculptor and how did these mountains even come to be? That wasn’t rhetorical. It was a real question I’d never bothered to look up. I’m so much more into enjoying than researching. The thing is: knowledge often makes the enjoyment that much stronger.

This was one of those times.  Because my husband always has an answer for everything, he explained to me they come from volcanoes and shifts in the tectonic plates. Massive, violent eruptions are what eventually became mountains over the course of earth’s history. All I could focus on was how something so destructive could create something so awe-inspiring.

From what looks like destruction to us (like a failure) something epic emerges (success).

There are countless stories of great world-changers who had to face gargantuan obstacles. These often led to “failures” which, in turn, became doorways to their greatest successes. Albert Einstein’s own father thought he would end up a failure after dropping out of high school. In due time, he did return to complete his diploma, but only after failing the first university entrance exam he attempted.

Even after those events that many would perceive as “life-halting” for a person of great potential, Einstein went off to finish high school, pass the university entrance exam, and become one of the world’s greatest minds (and badasses).

Charles Darwin was a two-time college drop out whose father also assumed would inevitably fail. Charles. Darwin. I think things worked out for him.

Colonel Sanders began his life with a rough and tumultuous childhood. His success was built on failure after failure after failure. At the age of 65, nearly broke, he decided to go out to sell his franchised chicken business model to restaurants across the country.  He was rejected by 1,009 restaurants before he finally found one agreeing to buy into his idea. The rest is finger-licking good history that proves it’s never too late to fight for success.

Then there’s one of my favorites: Dr. Seuss (also known as Theodor Seuss Geisel). His first manuscript, “And To Think I Saw it on Mulberrry Street,” was rejected 28 times before being picked up by random house. That’s 28 rejection letters. That’s not at all uncommon in the literary world, but when you think that it happened to the great Dr. Seuss, it’s quite a shocker.

Anyone that’s rejected could either choose to believe their work is not good enough or they can choose to believe they’re working on the same road as Dr. Seuss. The president of Random House was quoted as as saying that the only true genius on his author’s list was Ted Geisel. By the time he passed in 1991, he’d sold over 600 millions copies of his timeless books.

Finally and most appropriately, there’s Abraham Lincoln; our 16th and undeniably our most beloved president (along with Reagan of course). The path to his political career was paved with losses -- in the legislature, in the commission, in the senate -- until he finally won the highest position in the land and, in so doing, abolished slavery.  While his presidency was not an easy one, his leadership got our country through the Civil War and it was during his presidency that talks to purchase Alaska from Russia were in the works. 

Perhaps these mountains - massive, indestructible masterpieces are what they are because they were born from destruction and a ‘failure’ in a fault line.  Every success story has within it elements of failure because in that failure are the lessons, in that failure is the strengthening of the muscles required to succeed and in the seeming destruction of the failure are all the ingredients necessary for success.

“The struggle for success is success itself.” Jorge A. Garcia, Sr.

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