Failure ≠ Final

20 07 2017

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

(Thomas Edison)

 

Suggested Resources:

Edison: A Biography (Matthew Josephson)

Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success (John C. Maxwell)

Hannibal and Me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure (Andreas Kluth)

 

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“You Can’t Outsmart the Work”

7 07 2017

Chris, Jeff and I all went to the same school to work in our respective Master’s programs back in the early 2000’s.  Our studies were challenging and we enjoyed our learning experience.

Jeff went on to earn a Ph.D in Leadership Studies at a fine school on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.  Those pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree spend a lot of time in books and writing, like their counterparts in the medical and legal professions, to name just two disciplines.

Some time later, Chris and Jeff got together—reflecting on their educational journeys.  Their conversation went along these lines.

Chris:  “So, how is your Ph.D program going, Jeff.  I bet it’s intense.”

Jeff:  “For sure.  I’ve never read and wrote so much in my life.”

Chris:  “What does it take to get through a Ph.D program?”

Jeff:  “You’d be surprised.”

Chris:  “Oh really?  What do you mean?”

Jeff:  “Well, the ones who make it through a doctoral program like this aren’t the ones you’d expect.”

Chris:  “Really.  Who make it through and who don’t?”

Jeff:  “Not the geniuses.  The ‘Einsteins’ are the ones who wash out.”

Chris:  “Really?! Why?” (This goes against the standard assumptions of genius and success.)

Jeff:  “Because you can’t outsmart the work.

 

Well.

 

There is gold here.  And it is this.  There is no substitute for putting in your time and paces to earn a high degree/platform or income.  10,000 hour rule again.   One could fairly apply the 19th century label of “snake oil” to a lot of get-rich-quick schemes and thinking that so many of us gravitate to to make as much money in as little time with as little effort as possible.

We cheat ourselves when we do this.  Self-deception is delicious but it bites hard in the end.

Here’s a couple of quotes to ponder on the value of hard work:

  • “Wizard?  Pshaw. It’s plain hard work that does it.” (Thomas Edison, on being called a wizard)
  • “I was made to work. If you are equally industrious, you will be equally successful.” (Johann Sebastian Bach, author of over 1000 musical works in all sorts of genres)
  • “The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working. One is tempted to stop and listen to it. The only thing is to turn away and go on working. Work. There is nothing else.” (Albert Einstein)

Questions:

  • Do you love work or loathe it, seeking to avoid it if at all possible?
  • If you loathe your work, what can you do to change your approach to it? Perhaps cultivate a new field of work, a new discipline?
  • Are you aware of the genius/talent discussion embodied in the “10,000 hour rule” and the Edisonian maxim, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration?” As a counter to the rule read here.

 

Suggested Resources:

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (Geoff Colvin)

Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)

 

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Uneven Performance and Excellence

29 09 2013

Uneven PerformanceDerek Jeter, throughout a stellar career in Major League Baseball that has spanned eighteen seasons, gets a hit—on average—only three times for every ten at-bats.  And he is destined for induction in the Hall of Fame, probably the first ballot, five years after he retires.

Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player to step onto an NBA court, has missed more shots than he’s taken.  That’s an admission out of his own mouth and a matter of statistical fact.  And he’s Michael Jordan—a Hall of Famer and the standard by which professional hoopsters are judged.

Thomas Edison had over a thousand failures before he perfected the incandescent light bulb.  He kept at it until he got it right.

None of us is perfect.  We are all uneven performers in every conceivable area of life.  And yet we are capable of excellence and being outstanding in those things to which we put our hands.  Think about that.

Excellence does not mean never making a mistake, striking out, dropping a pass or making a train wreck of a meeting or conversation.  It does mean, however, getting up and dusting off, stepping back into the batter’s box, and calling someone and saying, “I’m sorry.  I blew it.  Please forgive me.”

Failed recently?  Join the club.  You are not a god and neither am I.  We are uneven often, perhaps most of the time.  But we keep at it.  We don’t stop trying.  We double down and give better effort and evaluate failure points as well as those times where we succeeded.

Okay now—no self-pity.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Bruised egos are not fatal by any means.  Get back on that horse and charge!

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The Fight That Is Life

2 08 2013

The Fight That Is LifeLife is many things to all of us.  For some, it’s an adventure.  For others, it is wonder and fascination.  For all of us, in one way or another, it is a journey.

And for all of us, though we are not all equally aware of it, life is a fight…combat…warfare.

One key to winning in life is to remind oneself that for every human being, life is a great battlefield.  For America’s finest, it is the War on Terror.  For others, perhaps a conflict for something good and noble in the face of evil and tyranny.  For some of us, the war for ideas in the political, economic or ecclesiastical arenas.  And all of us, in one way or another, must fight daily for our hearts.

Discouragement is not the only foe that seeks to silence the heart of man.  Mediocrity ranks up there as well, as does failure.

Remember this: A Hall of Fame baseball player does well at bat only 35% of the time.  Failure is never fatal unless you agree to let it be.  Thomas Edison had hundreds of such failures before he perfected the incandescent light bulb.  President Abraham Lincoln suffered numerous defeats before ascending the halls of power in Congress and, ultimately, the White House.

You may have lost the skirmish but the war is not over.  Far from it.  Pick yourself up, dust your uniform and plunge into the battle once again.  These timeless words of Shakespeare will give you pluck and resolve.

KING HENRY V:
”Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’”

Keep fighting, soldier.  People are depending on you.

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How Larry Bird Became Larry Bird

29 06 2012

In 1979, Hall of Fame standout Larry Bird first broke into the NBA, the beginning of a long and spectacular career with the Boston Celtics.  Larry had a practice regimen that he faithfully observed throughout his career.  He would arrive at the venue at least two hours before game time and, with the help of a ball boy, shoot baskets.  Over and over.  Before every single game.  Larry said that through hard work and self-discipline, he was able to go farther in his career than other guys who had better natural gifts but didn’t work hard developing their talents.  Though Bird was tall (6’9”), he couldn’t run or jump well.  But he could outshoot and outthink his opponents.  This he did time and time again.

We all come into life with certain aptitudes, advantages and challenges.  What we do with what we’ve been given determine the kinds of lives we make for ourselves.  Quality and success in life do not come automatically.  You may have superior intelligence, even brilliance.  But if you neglect the hard work of study, learning, practice and productivity, your potential will remain unfulfilled.  That doctor, attorney, theologian, financial analyst, software engineer, or Grammy Award-winning musician inside you does not emerge automatically.

Some years ago a friend of mine was working on his Ph.D in Leadership Studies.  When asked what types of students earn their doctorates (versus those who don’t), he remarked, “The Einsteins wash out.” Why? “Because you can’t outsmart the work.”  That was the secret of Thomas Edison’s genius.  “It’s plain hard work that does it.”  I especially am keeping this in mind as I’m going back to graduate school in January to finish my Master’s degree.

Similarly, you may have come into life with health problems in your family tree.  Those challenges do not have to define or limit your life.  You may have obesity, heart disease or high blood pressure in your family line but their effects are not necessarily inevitable.  Again, it takes work—the hard but fruitful work of exercising, eating carefully, avoiding unhealthy behaviors and stuff.

Life is what we make it.  It’s a canvas to paint on.  Like Larry Bird, with hard work and self-discipline, we can take modest giftings, even disadvantages and turn them into a Hall of Fame life.

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Fight On!

18 02 2012

Life is many things to all of us.  Adventure.  Journey.  Wonder.

And battle.

One key to winning in life is to remind oneself that for every human being, life is often a great battlefield.  For America’s finest, it is the War on Terror.  For others, perhaps a conflict for something good and noble in the face of evil and tyranny.  For some of us, the war for ideas in the political, economic or ecclesiastical arenas.  And all of us, in one way or another, must fight daily for our hearts.

Discouragement is not the only foe that seeks to silence the heart of man.  Mediocrity ranks up there as well, as does failure.

Remember this: A Hall of Fame baseball player does well at bat only 35% of the time.  Failure is never fatal unless you agree to let it be.  Thomas Edison had hundreds of such failures before he perfected the incandescent light bulb.  President Abraham Lincoln suffered numerous defeats before ascending the halls of power in Congress and, ultimately, the White House.

You may have lost the skirmish but the war is not over.  Far from it.  Pick yourself up, dust your uniform and plunge into the battle once again.  These timeless words of Shakespeare will give you pluck and resolve.

KING HENRY V:
”Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’”

Keep fighting, soldier.  People are depending on you.

Image Credit





The Larry Bird Effect

17 11 2011

In 1979, Hall of Fame standout Larry Bird first broke into the NBA, the beginning of a long and spectacular career with the Boston Celtics.  Larry had a practice regimen that he faithfully observed throughout his career.  He would arrive at the venue at least two hours before game time and, with the help of a ball boy, shoot baskets.  Over and over.  Before every single game.  Larry said that through hard work and self-discipline, he was able to go farther in his career than other guys who had better natural gifts but didn’t work hard developing their talents.  Though Bird was tall (6’9”), he couldn’t run or jump well.  But he could outshoot and outthink his opponents.  This he did time and time again.

We all come into life with certain aptitudes, advantages and challenges.  What we do with what we’ve been given determine the kinds of lives we make for ourselves.  Quality and success in life do not come automatically.  You may have superior intelligence, even brilliance.  But if you neglect the hard work of study, learning, practice and productivity, your potential will remain unfulfilled.  That doctor, attorney, financial analyst, software engineer, or Grammy Award winning musician inside you does not emerge automatically.

Some years ago a friend of mine was working on his Ph.D (in education).  When asked what types of students earn their doctorates (versus those who don’t), he remarked, “The Einsteins wash out.” Why? “Because you can’t outsmart the work.”  That was the secret of Thomas Edison’s genius.  “It’s plain hard work that does it.”

Similarly, you may have come into life with health problems in your family tree.  Those challenges do not have to define or limit your life.  You may have obesity, heart disease or high blood pressure in your family line but their effects are not necessarily inevitable.  Again, it takes work—the hard but fruitful work of exercising, eating carefully, avoiding unhealthy behaviors and stuff.

Life is what we make it.  It’s a canvas to paint on.  Like Larry Bird, with hard work and self-discipline, we can take modest giftings, even disadvantages and turn them into a Hall of Fame life.