Sunday morning, I was enjoying an early morning cup of coffee and flipping through the channels of my television. I paused on one of the Sunday news talk shows. I seldom pause long, but this won made me linger. It was about women’s undergarments. Before you flush your opinion of me, let me explain.
Fareed Zakaria of CNN was winding up an interview with Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of Spanx®. She was as effervescent as any evangelist or motivational speaker I had ever seen, full of smiles and enthusiasm for her product. She told Mr. Zakaria how her product came to be and how she went about first selling it. I’m a sucker for a good rags-to-riches story, so I listened in. There wasn’t much new until she mentioned how her father had influenced her. Well, I’m a father, so a lingered a little longer. I’ll paraphrase the story.
She said that during dinner her father would often ask, “What have you failed at this week?” Not, “What did you achieve, but what did you attempt and fail?”
Ms. Blakely told of a time when she answered that question by confessing that she tried out for a part in school and failed miserably. Dad gave her a high-five.
Seems an odd way to motivate a child, but on reflection, it is genius. He was teaching an important truth: to succeed at something, we have to be willing to fail. In fact, failing is part of the process.
This is true for writers. Writers of all levels must be willing to spend time, effort, and hours at a keyboard, send out their work, and be willing to see it rejected. The number of famous writers who endured rejections and setbacks only to forge a career is almost a cliche.
Let’s be honest. No one, likes to have their work passed over, or be told they’re not ready for publication. It hurts like a hammer to the head, but it is, nonetheless, part of the process. This is true for established writers who might have a busy career one year only to spend the next year trying to place a single project. Learning from failure is a need that never leaves.
You have permission to fail and feel good about it.
Theodore Roosevelt, in a 1910 speech at the Sorbonne in Paris offered one of the most inspirational quotes:
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
To some, such sentiment may seem schmaltzy. Perhaps it is, but it is also true. Be committed to success, but if you fail, at least fail while attempting something great.
Alton Gansky is a full time writer, director of BRMCWC, founder of Gansky.Communications and host of Writer's Talk. He is the award winning author of over 40 books. Prior to turning to full time writing, he was the senior pastor to three Southern Baptist churches. In addition to his writing, he speaks to writers groups and church organizations. www.altongansky.com