The Key To Success – Part 1

I failed.


I have been trying for months to make this photo booth reflective enough to take great photos of the wheel center hub caps I’m developing for work.

I’ve spent countless hours watching You Tube videos. I’ve spent sleepless nights trying to figure out what I’m missing. I’ve talked to photographers I know, and just about anyone I can corner long enough to ask if they’ve ever successfully taken photos of shiny objects.

Nothing. No one knows anything. Thanks a lot, world. So much for Karma.

I’ve spend gallons of gas I couldn’t afford going from camera shop to camera shop. I’ve purchased brighter bulbs, black out curtains, and even a green screen, for goodness sake!

What a waste. As if I have time, energy, and money to throw away.

My very understanding boss says there’s a time when good enough is good enough. I appreciate his attitude. But I simply cannot let this go.

Feeling particularly angry this evening for yet another day of failure (it’s now 1:36 in the morning when I should have been in bed hours ago), a realization hit me. So far I’ve failed to figure out how to get rid of the dark gray background that shows up on my photo editing screen even though I’m using a white background when taking the photos. Yes, my unfavorable results defy logic.

But if I can let go of the emotional attachment to the expected outcome (is that even possible?), I realize that if I never fail, then I must not be doing anything. If I do nothing, I will never succeed. You’ve heard of the perfect storm? Well, this is the perfect vicious cycle.

Maybe Will Smith is right when he encourages us to fail young and fail often. (Three Ways to Fail @ Evolve Blog)

Maybe failure is actually the key to success.

Thomas Edison‘s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” (

Winston Churchill repeated a grade during elementary school and, when he entered Harrow, was placed in the lowest division of the lowest class. Later, he twice failed the entrance exam to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He was defeated in his first effort to serve in Parliament. He became Prime Minister at the age of 62. He later wrote, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, Never, Never, Never give up.” (his capitals) (

Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4-years-old and did not read until he was 7. His parents thought he was “sub-normal,” and one of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.” He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He did eventually learn to speak and read. Even to do a little math. (

Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded.  (

R. H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York City caught on.  (

Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, received a “C” on his college paper detailing his idea for a reliable overnight delivery service. His professor at Yale told him, “Well, Fred, the concept is interesting and well formed, but in order to earn better than a “C” grade, your ideas also have to be feasible.”  (

When Bell Telephone was struggling to get started, its owners offered all their rights to Western Union for $100,000. The offer was disdainfully rejected with the pronouncement, “What use could this company make of an electrical toy.”  (

Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs tells of his first attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer: “So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.'” (

Daniel Boone was once asked by a reporter if he had ever been lost in the wilderness. Boone thought for a moment and replied, “No, but I was once bewildered for about three days.”  (

An expert said of Vince Lombardi: “He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation.” Lombardi would later write, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.” (

Babe Ruth is famous for his past home run record, but for decades he also held the record for strikeouts. He hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times in his career about which he said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” (

After Fred Astaire‘s first screen test, the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, read, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” He kept that memo over the fire place in his Beverly Hills home. Astaire once observed that “when you’re experimenting, you have to try so many things before you choose what you want, that you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion.” And here is the reward for perseverance: “The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it’s considered to be your style.”  (

When Lucille Ball began studying to be actress in 1927, she was told by the head instructor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School, “Try any other profession.”  (

In high school, actor and comic Robin Williams was voted “Least Likely to Succeed.”  (

Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him “hopeless as a composer.” And, of course, you know that he wrote five of his greatest symphonies while completely deaf. (

Van Gogh sold only one painting during his life. And this to the sister of one of his friends for 400 francs (approximately $50). This didn’t stop him from completing over 800 paintings. (

Jack London received six hundred rejection slips before he sold his first story.  (

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff. (

Charles Schultz had every cartoon he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook staff. Oh, and Walt Disney wouldn’t hire him.  (

12 publishers rejected J. K. Rowling‘s book about a boy wizard before a small London house picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. (

Michael Jordan and Bob Cousy were each cut from their high school basketball teams. Jordan once observed, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.”  (

Fail young, fail often. It somehow goes against the grain of logic. Or, does it? If we never try, we will never discover what doesn’t work. Each question leads us closer to the answer. Each try is one try closer to the solution.

If you aren’t failing, then you aren’t doing anything; if you aren’t doing anything, then you will never succeed.

Well, tomorrow’s another day. And maybe that’s the day my failure will finally pay off.



What Tools Do You Have On Your Belt?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am currently working a day job in retail. This is not my forever job, and it’s definitely not my dream job, but it pays the bills (barely) and I’ve accepted it as a learning tool God has temporarily placed on my belt of, “Skills Diane Needs To Learn To Reach Her Full Potential.”

Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot in the couple months I’ve been cashiering. In an eight hour shift, I average around 40 customers an hour. That’s one customer every 1 1/2 minutes. And, boy do I have the stories to tell!

But that’s another post for another day.

Suffice it to say, I meet all kinds. Fortunately, most are pleasant. But the variety of personalities and attitudes people portray while checking out is amazing.

So are their parenting styles.

As a result of witnessing hundreds of people in real life situations, i.e., it doesn’t get any more real than shopping for groceries with toddlers in tow, I’ve drawn this conclusion: INEFFECTIVE PARENTING ASSUMES CHILDREN ARE UNABLE TO CONTROL THEMSELVES, THEREFORE WE MUST MAKE CIRCUMSTANCES CONDUCTIVE TO THE CHILD BEING UNABLE TO MISBEHAVE.


Case it point: A child sitting in the cart’s baby seat reaches over and pushes my buttons (the ones on my register).

The mother, being the considerate woman she is, apologizes.

Her solution to the problem? She moves the cart away from the register. Which makes it impossible for me to toss her items into the cart without unnecessary force. I explain to her that I need the cart right next to the belt so I can be as time efficient and careful with her items as possible.

She’s bewildered. “But if we put the cart next to the register, then he (Junior) will push the buttons.” The poor woman only saw two choices, neither of which respected the child’s ability to obey: Either let him push buttons to his heart’s content or move him away so that he is unable to do so.

Mom’s only solution was to manipulate the environment to prevent Junior from misbehaving, i.e., forcing compliance.

Her parenting tools? Manipulation and force.

Another true case: A child sitting in the cart’s baby seat reaches over and pushes my buttons (the ones on my register). Yes, this happens a lot. Like every other customer.

The mother, being the considerate woman she is, apologizes.

Her solution to the problem? She tells Junior to stop pushing the buttons. When he stops, Mom thanks him for exercising his self-control. Note: Child is responsible for his own behavior.

Her parenting tools? Faith and respect. Faith in the child’s ability to make good choices and respect in responding appropriately to his choice.

I think it’s worth noting that, no doubt at some earlier time, Mom told Junior to stop and he didn’t so she promptly and appropriately responded in a way that let Junior clearly know that it was in his best interest to obey. Kids are smart. We’d do well to respect their intelligence and persistence, and teach them to use both to their advantage.

Witnessing this mother’s approach reminded me of how God parents us. He never forces or manipulates. He allows us free choice. We can chose actions and attitudes which bring blessings and good fortune into our lives, or we can chose options which bring us unwanted consequences. Either way, his love for us is unconditional. We can neither earn nor loose his love. It’s steadfast, secure, and eternal.

God believes in our ability to make good choices, and respects us enough to let us face the consequences, often using them as learning tools. We tend to see difficulties in life as bad. Rarely do we see them as the learning opportunities they are.

So, once again, I ask, “What tools do you have on your belt? Do you tend to use manipulation and force? Or do you use faith and respect? In both yourself and others?”

It’s only 9:30 in the morning and I don’t know what the day will bring. But I think it’s time I take inventory of the tools on my belt so I will be ready for whatever comes next.