I’m intrigued to explore the subject of failure in relation to persistence and success. The inspiration comes from an older book I’ve read recently by Frank Bettger called How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling. Originally written in 1949, Frank lectured across the country for weeks at a time with Dale Carnegie, convincing him that he needed to put his learning down on paper and influence the world. Through a systematic studied approach of his sales, he learned to focus not on the people who didn’t buy his products but how to find out about the customers needs and work with their resistances to get at the core of their desires.
Frank also learned that you can’t solve a problem without gathering accurate figures of what you are doing, so that you can look at the numbers and see where you are spending most of your time on and if you need to make adjustments accordingly.
Taking that perspective into my own life, I’ve realized that the things that I failed at throughout my life and took this same outside look inward allowed me to achieve more than areas that I gave up on, or didn’t seek out support or help. Looking at my college career as an English major is a perfect example of plowing through other people’s opinions to prove that I know I’m a good writer.
My freshman year of college all students at the school I went to were required to take basic English composition 101. The Professor, Mr. Lewis, gave us a basic essay test on the first day of class to assess our skill level and figure out where his focus would go for each student in the class as the semester progressed. Two days later I was ushered into his office during office hours as he wanted to speak to me privately. During this session he admitted to me within our class of 30, that I would be only one of 2 students given 3 full credits for taking the course as I had all the skill necessary to be a great writer. Thus, I picked up another class that semester and got credit for 18 credits while only taking 15. I felt like college writing would be a breeze.
My junior year I took 4 writing courses out of 5 classes. The dean of English thought this would be academic suicide- how could I possibly keep up with all of the reading and writing within each course? I told him I’m an English major- and this is what I went to school for. During that same semester I had an English professor who would have frequent office hour meetings with me, attempting to veer me off my writing career wishes and continually stating that at best my skills are of an “average” writing student. I’d re-write essay after essay- sometimes spending 15-20 hours on a short 1,000 word article. I wasn’t going to let one opinion get me down.
I studied the art of writing from the greats- Hemingway, Emerson, Twain, Steinbeck, Dickens, Shakespeare, and others. I copied some of their paragraphs and would create my own based on their style. I broke down sentence structure and understood how to piece things together. I would take certain essays and expand on them, and others I would write only the basic story elements, attempting to look at things from a first person or third person perspective.
Ultimately, I didn’t accept one person’s opinion for failure, and I wouldn’t have if the number were a hundred or a thousand. I knew within my heart and head I can write. If there were areas I needed to improve upon, I’d ask for outside help from professors and fellow students who’s writing I admired. The success I’m experiencing as a writer didn’t happen overnight- it’s been a study of a lifetime of writing and knowing that I have to continual work at my craft, learning new skills and expanding upon the ones that I’m good at to get even stronger.
Look- the best batters in major league baseball get 3 hits out of 10. The ones who win the batting title get 3 and a 1/2 hits for every 10 at bats. Every quarterback in football doesn’t complete 100% of their passes, and every basketball player doesn’t hit all of their shots either. The ones who rise above the average are the ones who put a fair amount of study into their art, look at the numbers and seek out coaching to get better than they ever could imagine. Find an area in your life and do the same- and I’m sure you’ll rise above failure and into a new league of success.