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Success from Adversity

Nuts'R'us... you bet!!!!
Creative Commons License photo credit: ceasol

We make way too much of our mistakes.  I was just listening to an interview of Pete Peterson on Charlie Rose.  Pete Peterson is the former chairman of the Blackstone Group, a former president of the NY Federal Reserve Bank, former chairman of Lehman Brothers and Commerce Secretary in the Nixon administration.  The thing that struck me was that he has largely led an accidental life.  By this I mean that as he made mistakes, he “accidentally” recovered in such a way as to far exceed what had come before.  He was kicked out of MIT but still managed to graduate from Northwestern University summa cum laude.  He was chairman of Lehman Brothers for a year before being ousted in a coup.  He went on to create the Blackstone Group which made him a billionaire.  Success from adversity.

I think we all often do the same thing, but unfortunately we have a culture that dreads the “permanent record.”  We warn our children not to get the littlest flaw on their permanent record because it can hurt them for life.  As a result, we’ve created a culture of faux perpetual success.  No wonder we’re so depressed.  None of us actually live perpetually successful lives.  When we hold ourselves up to that standard we fall short.  If we think objectively about it, we know that people around us struggle, but for some reason we all try to keep up the illusion of success.  Who wants to be the first one to stand up and say, “I really messed up this time.” (Well, except for the politicians who get caught with someone they’re not supposed to be with.  They make careers out of being “reborn” in any sense of the word you’d like to apply.  Along that line, you might enjoy the following piece on politicians’ mistakes – http://www.miamiherald.com/living/columnists/leonard-pitts/story/1127813.html)

Don’t get me wrong.  Success is a good thing.  Holding up examples of successful lives give us and our children role models to inspire us on our journey.  But very few people are always successful and one of the things we tend to ignore is that people who have created lives with huge successes are also people who have had large and sometimes public failures:

  • Bill Clinton – failing in a run for governor of Arkansas
  • Donald Trump – overextending himself and declaring bankruptcy
  • Barack Obama – failing in a run for Congressman in Illinois

What they all had in common was a belief that through persistence, they could find a way to bounce back.  Maybe it wasn’t even a conscious thought.  They just never considered giving up.

Unfortunately, as a culture we focus on the eventual success and not on the path from adversity to success.  So, how do you get from setback to success?

Make a commitment to moving forward.  Few paths are a straight line to success.  Often we need to find a way forward.  Sometimes we need to blaze a new trail.  Whenever we are attempting something new, there will be times of uncertainty, paths tried that dead end and voices that tell us we’re not getting anywhere.  Keep moving.  As Robert Frost said, “The best way out is through.”

Make a Commitment to Continuous Learning

Life is either an opportunity to repeat our mistakes over and over indefinitely OR an opportunity to keep learning.  I’ve noticed that the best quotes are contributed by that brilliant writer, Anonymous.  She once defined insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.  Don’t be nuts, learn from your mistakes.  Learn from the mistakes of others.

Tell Your Inner Critic Where To Go

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.  When we miss the mark, we are our loudest critic.  We say things to ourselves that we would NEVER say to another living being – not even our worst enemy.  And yet, we’ll talk to ourselves in the most demeaning and destructive way.  If you need to get some of that emotion out, set yourself a time limit, blow off steam and then tell your critic to shut up.

Figure Out Who To Listen To

After September 11th, George Bush said, “You’re either with us or against us.”  No matter what you think of his politics, he was right.  Either your friends and family are supportive or they’re destructive to your efforts.  Often familial rivalries result in less than supportive comments about where you want to go.  Just because they’re friends or family doesn’t make them right.  Listen to what they say.  Use what serves you.  Discard the rest.

Add Energy to Your Efforts Every Day

We live in a physical world that was designed to have friction.  Friction is a good thing.  Without friction we wouldn’t be able to stop, control our direction, or speed up.  Friction is also at work in our emotional lives.  Friction is what polishes us up or puts pits in our surface.  To overcome friction – either physical or psychic – we need to add energy to our efforts, step on the gas, pick up the pace.  Find sources of inspiration in books, articles, blogs, websites.  Use them to keep reminding yourself of where you are going and that is possible to get there.

Remember, most of our goals are not rocket science.  There are people out there who have succeeded before you.  You can follow in their footsteps.  You can create your own footsteps.  Don’t let the mistakes get you down.

Tell us about your own experiences with “Success from Adversity”.

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Cup o’ Inspiration

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Take a short break and consider the following:

“A dead end street is a good place to turn around.”

Naomi Judd

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