Monday, November 27, 2006

Failure is the norm, so learn from it

"If at first you don't succeed, you're running about average."
- M.H. Alderson

It sounds like a joke. It's not meant to be.

Overnight successes are rare. In the music business, a group that's an overnight success has usually been slaving away in the trenches, building a fan base, crafting new skills and polishing them for about a decade.

In painting, as in others of the arts, a decade of being the "starving artist" is the norm before recognition hits, if it comes at all.

No one is born being great at anything. You might wonder if savants (remember 'Rain Man'?) were born with some mysterious built-in talent since they sometimes have amazing abilities by the time they are four years old.

Prevailing thinking today says that savants are autistic, but some disagree. It's possible that a petit mal epileptic attack on a young brain could alter how it develops. Almost everyone has one or a few petit mal attacks in their lives at some points, even if they are not diagnosed as epilepsy by a physician. When the electrical impulses of epilepsy go charging through the brain in chaotic fashion they have been known to change a person's disposition, their character, their abilities, even their approach to life. It could happen at a very young age. But, at that, there is no general agreement that a brilliant savant has a developed talent that gathers a fan base. Savants, in that sense, may not be successes, just different.

Most people begin their lives being fairly average. Some develop extraordinary skills and talents, while most of us become pretty good at a few things. Most people with extraordinary talents and skills endured many failures along their path to success.

Even in business, failure is common on first attempts. The founders of Ford and Hershey's were perhaps the best known business failures who became successes in their second or third business attempts.

On one point successful people (who are recongized as such by the public) agree, they learned more from their failures than they did from their successes. They used their failures as real-life learning situations on which they built their future successes.

We can all learn from that. We can use failures and tragedies in our lives as learning situations on which we can build better futures. Just remember, a better future doesn't come quickly.

It will come with diligence, determination and staying the course.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the way through the detours of life.
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