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Why Failing is Your Only Option

“If we let you pass, you’ll be struggling to keep up with your peers. That’s why we think it’s better that you find something else.” Those words stung.

What happened? How did I go from straight A student and top 1% in the country to this - standing in front of the review board and having my fate determined by these instructor pilots?

Yet, as painful as that moment was, it was also the beginning of my new life.

I struggled at my first post as an aircraft maintenance officer in an E-2C squadron (These birds are the Navy’s equivalent of the AWACs early warning aircraft that the Air Force uses.)

I got laid off after my first civilian job with AT&T.

I lost more money on my first real estate investment than a lot of folks make in years.

Why am I telling you about these failures instead of bragging about awards and commendations?

Because out of these setbacks I became who I am today — someone who has started businesses, co-founded an arts non-profit, run a marathon, written books and published on INC. magazine, and spoken in front of hundreds.

We often overvalue our successes and undervalue our setbacks. (click to tweet)

Sometimes What Seems Like a Curse is a Blessing

There’s a Chinese story about a farmer who finds a herd of wild horses. His neighbors praise his good fortune, but the farmer only replies, “Sometimes what seems like a blessing is a curse.”

When the farmer’s son tries to tame one of the horses, he falls and breaks his leg. The farmer’s wife laments and curses their misfortune. To which the farmer merely says, “Sometimes what seems like a curse is really a blessing.”

War breaks out in the kingdom. Because of the son’s injury, the draft for the army passes over him.

Although we might think of failures as humbling, that’s actually arrogance. To think that we know better than the powers that be or the universe itself how things will turn out.. Really??

In the years when Steve Jobs was kicked out of the very company he started — (I think you’ve heard his little startup called Apple?) — he went on to do some of the most creative work in his life. Besides helping to make Pixar what it is today, Jobs developed the technology that would be the core of iPhone and app technology.

If we look at the heart of what we call ‘failure,’ we can find the very thing that propels us forward.

Tomorrow a group of veterans and I are going to help young entrepreneurs develop the true grit to come back from setbacks and turn them into successes. If you’d like to connect with other #IndieCreatives, join us now on Facebook.