Overcoming Failure (Life Lesson Series)

InterviewGirl.com’s Lesson of the Week: Overcoming Failure

“Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison

Through reading historical text books and primary source documents, history students come to understand the stories about individuals who have incomparably influenced our world. By learning these individuals’ stories, we uncover the code to life’s paramount lessons.

One tried and true historical lesson that spans the ages is that one must fail in order to succeed. Individuals need to overcome failure and use this experience to then move forward in their lives.

We’ve all been in History class. Certain people have their names in bold in the history book. A friend once asked me, “What is it that allows someone to be the person who gets their name in bold in the history book? I mean millions of people live in a society, yet only a few names make their way into the standard history textbook.”

That was one of those exceptional questions that gets one thinking. In my estimation, someone gets their name in bold because the individual contributes to humanity in a way that outlasts his/her own lifetime.

We learn about the feats and extraordinary accomplishments of these individuals, but if you “delve” a bit deeper, as a History student, I learned that before success for many of these individuals often times comes failure. This is a valuable lesson from history that we can all review.

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
– Winston Churchill

History’s “greats” often overcame adversity in their lives before they were successful. If I were to ask you, who is the best pitcher of all time? People who follow the game of baseball may respond Cy Young. Cy Young is considered by many to be the best pitcher of all time. He is credited with this lofty ideal because he won 511 victories.

Do you know that he also lost 315 games? Swimmer Mark Spitz thought that he had failed. He thought that he would win five gold medals at the Olympics in Mexico City. He won only two then, but four years later he won seven. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he hit 714 home runs.

Before Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, the man had held several government jobs and failed at all of them. He served time in prison. He injured his left hand in the war. He owed money on several debts. Finally, he picked up a pen and wrote Don Quixote, which has proved to be a timeless classic. Robert Frost is the greatest of all American poets. He was a failure for some twenty years.

He was 39 before he ever sold a volume of poetry. Today he is considered to be one of the finest writers that has ever lived. His poems have been published in 22 languages.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry four times. He had more honorary degrees granted to him probably more than any other man of letters and Congress named him an American Poet Laureate. Many of us know why Babe Ruth and Robert Frost are remembered in history, but delving further into their stories reveals that before success came failure.

Today the name Albert Einstein is synonymous with genius. Albert Einstein too overcame adversity. Einstein did not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven, causing his teachers and parents to think that he was mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social.

Eventually, he was expelled from school. He was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. Historians describe that he had a slower start than many of his childhood peers. Despite this slow start, he eventually caught up pretty well.

The lives of Cy Young, Mark Spitz, Cervantes, Robert Frost, Babe Ruth and Albert Einstein imbue to us a valuable life lesson. All of these people who “have their names in bold in history book” teach us that you cannot quit when you fail, but you must persevere and push forward.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” – Elbert Hubbard

“Failure is merely a speed bump on road to success. I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan