“I fall, I stand still…I trudge on, I gain a little… I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory.” Helen Keller.
Ever heard of Macy’s Inc.? It’s the parent company of Macy’s Stores, one of the world’s oldest and largest mid-range to upscale chain of department stores. It has over 798 branches across the United States, with more than 167,000 employees. It has an annual operating income of over $1.963 billion, and revenue in excess of $24.992 billion. But its founder, R. H. Macy failed four times in four previous business attempts, and just when people thought he would never succeed in business again, he made yet another attempt by founding Macy’s, and this time what happened? The business became an outstanding success. The reason the world still talks about Macy several years after his death is because he didn’t give up even after four defeats.
Failure affords you the opportunity to glean experience. Every time a project fails in your hands, you learn how not to go about a project. You now know what doesn’t work, and it’s this knowledge that empowers you for future adventures. Thomas Edison said he learnt over a thousand ways how not to produce an electric bulb.
Sometimes your memories of past failures can keep you from trying new ideas. When you let the thoughts of past defeats overwhelm your willingness to move on to other things, then you’ve become a failure. The fear of failing again has crippled many people; they can’t afford to risk it again, so from now on, they’ll rather play it safe. But Bob Gass said “there’s a certain security in playing it safe; nothing’s lost, but nothing’s won”. Don’t let the punches life throws at you stop you dead in your tracks. The true measure of a man’s heart is the size of the obstacles he’s able to overcome. Anytime you retreat into your shell and stop making moves as a result of the obstacles you’ve encountered, then you’ve surrendered to those obstacles. Surrendering is a sign of defeat. When a soldier surrenders in a battle, he puts down his arms, carries his two hands in the air, and gives up fighting. But as long as he’s still fighting, even if the odds are against him, he’s not defeated.
You may not have the power to determine the circumstances that will come your way in life, but you do have the power to determine your response or reaction in any given situation. How you chose to react to the things that happen to you is a choice. Some people are easily shattered by defeat and adversity, others aren’t easily broken. Joni Eareckson is one of those people who aren’t easily broken by adversity. At 18, she suffered a serious diving injury that got her fractured between the fourth and fifth cervical levels, and turned her into a quadriplegic, unable to use all four limbs. It was a terrible blow that turned her entire world around by 360 degree, and was enough for her to just accept her fate, dwell in self-pity and live the rest of her life as a defeated swimmer. But she didn’t. Faced with a bleak and uncertain future, she decided to fight on and take control of her destiny.
So what did she do? Firstly, she learnt to paint, holding a brush between her teeth, and soon she became a successful artist, even hosting exhibitions of her own art works. Secondly, she founded ‘Joni and Friends’, an organization that brings together and caters for disabled people through training programs and financial aid. Her mission is to help other disabled people accomplish their own dreams. Thirdly she started her own radio program now heard in over 1000 radio stations, and is a popular conference speaker. Fourthly, she got married, authored over 40 books and several articles, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and is an advocate for disabled people. Fifthly, she has received about 6 Honorary Doctorate Degrees and several other awards. Joni is a study in turning adversity into stepping stones. She took a great adversity and turned it into a success story. Joni made her life count despite disability. Adversity often brings out the best in people, let the unique adversities and challenges of your life bring out the best in you.
You are never defeated until you give up trying. When the door of a career, business, academics or relationship closes on you, make effort and open another door. Don’t just sit there and wait for another door to open. People often say ‘when one door closes, another will open’. But waiting for another door to open by itself doesn’t indicate any conscious effort on your part. You could spend the rest of your life waiting for another door to open, that’s why I often say when one door closes on you, make effort and open another door. When life knocks you down, refuse to stay down, bounce back to your feet and trudge on to something even bigger. It’s refusing to bounce back that makes one a failure. It was Franklyn D. Roosevelt who said “take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something”.
Sometimes we want everything to be in place and be certain that something will work before we’re willing to begin. But if you’re going to have to wait to be certain and for everything to be available, then you may never start. It doesn’t matter what you’ve lost, and how many times you’ve been defeated in the past, if only you’ll keep trying, someday you’ll win.
One of life’s truths is that a single victory (success) can overshadow all the failures and defeats of your past to the extent that people never remember you ever failed. Don’t give up without a fight.
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