As regular readers of my blog will be aware, I am a big fan of embracing failure.
Now, that may sound odd, but hear me out on this one.
I’m not suggesting failure is something we should try to do — quite the opposite, naturally — but failure is a necessary part of life at times, and the best way to handle it is to learn from it.
I know that I’ve made more than my share of mistakes during my career, as well as in my personal life, and they’ve taught me valuable lessons, and some of the smartest people I know were able to take setbacks and turn them into positives.
The world is full of ‘successful failures’.
Many of them had to overcome naysayers, setbacks and career disappointments to reach the top.
They were tenacious and, like an old-fashioned alchemist, they turned their metal into gold.
Some of the most prominent ‘successful failures’ that come to mind include:
Did you know he was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas?”
Did you know that Walt formed his first animation company in Kansas City in 1921 and made a deal with a distribution company in which he would ship his cartoons to New York and get paid six months later?
Unsurprisingly, he was forced to dissolve his company because he could not pay his rent and was (reportedly) surviving on dog food.
Needless to say, he went on to be nominated for 59 Academy Awards and is the great animator of our time.
Whether you’re a horror fan or not, there’s no denying the success of Stephen King.
But it wasn’t always this way.
One of his most successful books, Carrie, was rejected by 30 publishers, one of whom told him that “negative utopias” do not sell.
After so many rejections, King reportedly gave up and threw the manuscript in the bin.
Luckily, his wife retrieved it and urged him to have another go.
He eventually published Carrie, and the rest is history.
Oprah was born into working-class poverty.
She was the daughter of a teenage low-income mother and was pregnant at 14 (her son died shortly after birth).
Even after she scored a job in journalism, things weren’t always easy.
One of her first jobs in TV ended abruptly after the producer declared she was “unfit for television.”
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Considering how far she has come, they must be eating their words.
The author of the hugely successful Harry Potter series has had anything but a smooth ride.
By the time she had finished the first of the Harry Potter books, she was divorced, on welfare and with a child to support.
Furthermore, all 12 major publishers rejected the Harry Potter manuscript.
Finally, a year later Bloomsbury accepted it and extended a very small £1500 advance.
No doubt, it was one of the best decisions the publishing house has ever made.
Bill Gates, one of the world’s wealthiest men now, struggled to find his niche early on.
He started Traf-O-Data, a business that created reports for roadway engineers from raw traffic data, with two other businessmen.
The company did achieve a measure of success by generating some income, but allegedly the machine they had built to process the data tanked when they tried to present it to a Seattle County traffic employee.
This didn’t stop, Bill, and the lessons he learned from the traffic data company helped him found one of the world’s biggest companies.
It’s never too late to start a fast-food empire.
Just look at Colonel Sanders.
It wasn’t until the age of 62 that Sanders, with a $105 social security check in hand, pitched his chicken recipe to restaurants.
According to reports, some 1,009 people rejected him.
Instead of giving up, he hit the road and began trying to sell his franchise-model chicken restaurant, eventually finding success with a restaurant outside of Utah.
It became the first Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the restaurant tripled sales in a year, mostly from the colonel’s chicken.
The bottom line
So, you see, it’s rare that successful people have a smooth run.
In fact, you could argue that one of the prerequisites for success is some hurdles along the way that help you build strength, resilience and intestinal fortitude.
Then when you do achieve the success you’ve been seeking, it will be all the more enjoyable.
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