Is Success an absence of Failure?

In my self-description I probably won’t use the words “Creative Type” yet aren’t we all creative, aren’t we all creating new things each day? In writing these thoughts I am creating something, and that is worth taking a moment to bask in. Not for the praise from peers or on social media, but to give your creative spirit a voice. It would be fair to say that I’ve had a bit of a block for a few months now. I started writing because thought and inspiration for others was running wild in my head. As quickly as it started, it seemed to have disappeared. Just when I was starting to finding a voice, something I was passionate about, it seemed to have left as fast as it came. For some time I’ve felt a bit stagnant, not just in my career, but also my personal life. Just as the voice has guided me before, it lead me to a TED Talk which let to another, and to yet another. In listening to those, the voice seems to have peeked it’s head out. Here are a few things I learnt from those talks.

Success doesn’t mean they’ve never Failed!

I have to admit, sometimes I subconsciously think that if I succeed it means I won’t fail. There are countless stories of many famous people who were seen as failures, they were rejected by society and peers, if they had listened to the world, they would have never moved forward. With modern media it seems the bar is sometimes set very high, we’re conditioned to think that in order to succeed, we have to be super human. In the teaching at church this weekend, our pastor identified a few people that were treated as failures. The one that was the most laughable was that Albert Einstein was called stupid and unintelligent. Of course his name is now synonymous with being a genius. The message there is that if you’ve been rejected by others, that doesn’t have to define your entire life. Thomas Edison, had hundreds of failures before he had his first real success. Being successful doesn’t mean that you’ve not failed before, or even that you’re not going to fail in the future. In contrast if people call you a failure, it doesn’t mean that you will be that way forever, because at some point you will succeed. When comparing ourselves to others, we might not always measure up, and that’s ok, the world doesn’t define you, you define how your future will unfold.

What is the source of creativity?

Where does your creative ideas come from? Is it something innate that you possess, is it something you’re blessed with? Can you loose that creative spirit? In a recent TED Radio Hour Program I heard The Source of Creativity  (click link to listen to the Full Show), a few people you might have heard of attempted to answer this question. The one that stood out to me the most was from Elizabeth Gilbert, you might have heard of her, she did a book called “Eat, pray, love.” In Elizabeth’s segment of the show she talked about how she found the inspiration to write her best selling book, and how she has learnt to live with the aftermath of such a great book. Another artist that goes by the name of Sting, also spoke on the same topic. After 3 decades of producing hits after hits, one day he woke up and couldn’t write anything new. They both point out that after you’ve found success, it doesn’t mean it’s something that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Isn’t that what’s plaguing most celebrities? One day someone is on the top of the Billboard charts, then months or years later they just completely disappear. Success like most things in life is fickle, in order to keep something you have to work hard at it. So whether you were blessed with musical talents, or the ability to transform yourself into a new person on stage, you’ll still have to be intentional to maintain your gift. As Elizabeth Gilbert points out in her TED Talk, whether you’re blessed by your creator or it’s something you just learnt, we must be thankful for our gifts. You should never come from a place of arrogance, but of gratitude, because one day it could all be gone.

Success is sometimes an accident

In the message at Church last weekend, we looked at failure, and some of the people who were seen as failures. There’s a man by the name of Thomas Edison, who after 1000’s of tries finally succeeded. Henry Ford was rejected many times, people thought that building a production car was a idiotic idea that will never go anywhere. Walt Disney was called un-imaginative, but later went on to build a company that is the epitome of imagination. Alexander Fleming was working in his lab one day, and what started out as a mistake, lead to the discover of Penicillin. What these things all have in common is that for the most part, they were all discovered by accident. Meaning that Thomas Edison didn’t set out to invent things that would revolutionize the world, or Disney to create an empire to dominate the entertainment industry etc. The final outcome was not the intention of these various inventors. While they didn’t predict the brevity of their inventions, they were working towards a smaller goal. Success comes after hours and hours of hard work, and dedication, to the point of insanity sometimes. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s story, she had no idea that Eat, Pray, Love would be what it is today. She wanted to share her story, to give a glimpse of her journey so far. So what does any of this mean? If you’re passionate about something, then you’ll most likely have to work hard to achieve it. While you have an expected goal in mind, understand that the final product may be even greater, or perhaps not as big as you thought. Despite the outcome, you still have to keep at it, keep persevering.

As I think on my own life, I know one thing for certain, I’m passionate about helping people navigate and improve their lives. I do believe that that talent is divinely granted, and that I’m to use it for the good of the world. While I do have an idea of where I’d like my life to go, I can’t say with any certainty where exactly I will end up. What I do know though is that I have to be intentional, with each day I have to live with gratitude, be thankful that I have the freedom and ability to carve out my life in a way that’s satisfying to me. My goal is to live my life each day with happiness and grace, and to not be naive in thinking that I’m doing this on my own accord. Of course the greatest challenge is figuring out my place in this cosmic space, to learn what’s my contribution to humanity. While I’m sure that I might not do anything grandiose, it shouldn’t stop me from trying.

 “success isn’t the absence of failure, sometimes failure leads to success; sometimes failure and success can co-exist in the same space.”

6 thoughts on “Is Success an absence of Failure?

  1. I’ve got to say, you and I seem to be on the same wavelength these days. I’ve been mulling the concept of success for the last little while, and what it means to me.

    One thing that I think tells a lot about a person is what success means to them. It’s so easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves against others and measuring our “success” against theirs. But does that stuff really matter?

    I’ve done a bit of travelling (not as much as I would like, but a bit), and although I’ll admit this is a subjective judgement I have noticed that the general level of happiness seems higher in some of the countries I’ve been to where people have less.

    Looking at the Albert Einsteins and Thomas Edisons of the world, they have achieved international renown for the “things” they have done, but what if they weren’t happy? Would they still be successes?

    I’m still trying to figure a lot of this out for myself, but I think that success for me means that I can look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I did the best I could. I might have failed miserably at something, but if I gave it my all did I really fail?

    Interesting topic, and lots to think about.

    • That’s a good point about “What success means to you!”
      I wrote this one because I was starting to feel a bit toxic, negative self-talk, and just a general mood of doubt about the future. The biggest take away I have from this new post is this “success isn’t the absence of failure, sometimes failure leads to success; sometimes failure and success can co-exist in the same space.”
      You’re right happiness does play a big part in success, or I would say content plays a big part in success. I was not born in the U.S, and through my travels from the time I was in the Marines, I saw the same thing you did when I visited other countries. People lived a simpler life, and they’re more content with their lives, and their measures of success isn’t as vain or materialistic as us here in the US.

    • I think sometimes we get caught in that tunnel vision, too focused on our Dreams. Then when we don’t get it when WE want, our automatic thought is “I’ve failed” or “I’ve done something wrong, so I’m being punished.”
      I heard this some time back. When our prayers don’t get answered, “sometimes the answer is no, or sometimes the answer is not now” we just have to be ok with the answer either way.

  2. Failures are a funny thing, because when I experience a failure, it tells me that I am in some way on the verge of success.

    Failures do not make you a failure… failures mean you tried to achieve something and for specific reasons, you did not accomplish yet. That is how I see it. When I keep this in mind, it tells me that I am on the verge of success. Success stories mean along the way, I had to endure at least one failure. I used to have difficulty with rejection and failing at something, which limited me from doing XYZ.

    Thankfully, I no longer view rejection as a “me” problem. Instead, I don’t take it personally and just learn from the situation.

    Great post. I enjoyed reading it

    • Thank you for stopping by, it’s funny what I notice sometimes. When I think I’ve seen a message for the present moment, it’s not until later that I fully understand why I heard that message. This post isn’t much different, when I wrote this post, while I was thinking down about myself, I don’t think the message had it’s full impact. Despite my revelations that week, this last week was more difficult spiritually. I’ve made some mistakes in areas I thought I had conquered already. Making those mistakes this week reminds me that my journey isn’t complete, and that I have to be vigilant on the road ahead, careful that I don’t fall into old holes.

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