Michael I. Kaplan
Successful people fail much more often than those who are not successful. However, unlike those who try and fail – then subsequently give up without ever trying again – successful people overcome those failures with renewed determination until they finally realize their dream.
For this reason, believing successful people have a magic recipe for success that also immunizes them from failure is an outright lie. Once I prove this, and I will, please put this lie at the top of your “Things to Forget List” forever.
When it comes to the subject of success and failure, humanity in general tends to be a fair weather friend. When you tell someone your dreams they might say “You have no chance to succeed.” If you do fail the first time out they’ll say “I told you so.”
When your perseverance pays off and you finally succeed they’ll probably say “I knew you could do it” – then promptly forget all the previous failures that brought you to this point.
“The difference between success and failure is when you decide to stop trying.”
One of the fundamental philosophies underlying this mindset is the belief that life should somehow be easy. Typically, when a person says a particular task is going to be too difficult, what they are actually saying is “the task is going to be too difficult for me,” thus elevating difficult to impossible.
If you believe a task is too difficult, my first question to you would be, “Did you think it would be easy?” You might respond with, “No, but I didn’t think it would be this difficult.”
Now the truth comes out; you thought it would be easier. Had you predicted the task at hand would be difficult – but the reward would be worth the effort – you would be right on track.
At this juncture I feel compelled to admit to you just how much I hate the word “failure,” especially in light of the words’ contemporary usage. In my experience – and the point I try to make to those who use the word “failure” so freely – a failure constitutes an absolute loss from which no further action follows, and from which nothing can be learned.
Attempting to jump the Grand Canyon in your family vehicle would fit neatly into this category: zoom, whoosh, splat and done. You failed.
However, if you unsuccessfully attempt a task but still manage to gain valuable insight and knowledge, and then apply that knowledge to your next endeavor, can you honestly say the first attempt was a complete failure?
To a fault, those who have pursued their dreams and won will tell you they learned as much from their “failures” as they did from their victories. To illustrate this point, consider the following examples:
- Bill Gates: Launched his first start-up, Traf-O-Data, in 1972 to automate the transfer of data collected from roadway traffic counters to transportation engineers. Great concept but it failed miserably. Gates and his partner Paul Allen learned from the experience and created Microsoft. The rest is history.
- James Dyson: The brilliant inventor of cutting-edge vacuum cleaners spent 15 years creating 5,127 prototypes before coming up with a marketable product … all while his wife gave art lessons to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. All failed the test until # 5,128. Dyson, now a billionaire many times over, never lost sight of the dream.
- Steve Jobs: Remember when this computer guru launched the “LISA”? Most people don’t. It’s sales performance was so abysmal it got Jobs fired from the very company he founded. He launched another company: NeXT. It failed as well due to hardware issues, but the software division was bought by Apple and Jobs started back at ground zero. His motto was “failure is feedback,” which is why history will remember Steve Jobs as the genius he truly was.
If you take some time to research the back-story of those you consider to be successful, you’ll undoubtedly find a reoccurring theme: many were homeless, bankrupt and suffered a number of “failures” before finally achieving their dream.
The difference between success and failure is only a matter of where on the timeline you decide to stop trying.
Michael Kaplan is a military veteran, serial entrepreneur and author. If you enjoyed this article, see his most recent book: The Prior-Service Entrepreneur: Providing Military Veterans with the Competitive Skills to Start a Successful Business (available in the VetLikeMe Bookstore). You’re invited to connect with Michael on Twitter and Facebook as well.
Michael is a regular contributor for VetLikeMe.