Author Patrick Girondi On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Be tolerant of others. The most deplorable person has some goodness. When I was a kid, I robbed stuff from stores, bikes and eventually graduated to larger things. But I could never rob someone whom I perceived as being poor and often gave away much of my ill-gotten fruits by giving them to people who I thought were in need. As horrible as I was, there was something kind, even about me.
The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds people back from pursuing great ideas. Imagine if we could become totally free from the fear of failure. Imagine what we could then manifest and create. In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about “Becoming Free From the Fear of Failure.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Patrick Girondi.
PATRICK FINLEY GIRONDI, originally from the South Side of Chicago, is an Italian-American singer-songwriter, author, and founder of San Rocco Therapeutics. Girondi has released five music albums and is the author of Diamond in the Rough. He has led his company, San Rocco Therapeutics, since 1993, with the mission to cure Sickle Cell Disease Thalassemia.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I’ve been a shoe shine, bus boy, hospital dish-washer, mechanic, airman in the military, dock worker, truck driver, a trader, pharmaceutical company founder, and finally a singer-songwriter and author. All of the positions were passions, none of them were or are work or hobbies.
I guess the story about ‘Big Mamma,’ is the one that stands out at the moment. I was 15 when I washed dishes at Northwestern Hospital, and the only worker who was not African American. I got messed with, and saved by a woman who ran the line in the kitchen and much else. The women on the line wore mesh up from their shoes to the top of their heads so that hair didn’t fall onto the plates when they piled on the different servings. Everyone called my guardian angel ‘Big Mamma.’
Years passed and over a decade later I began helping a kid named Derek Holmes, eventually paying 4 years of Catholic High School. We became very close. I met his family and became one of them. Another two decades flew by and as one of the clan, I attended Derek’s mother’s funeral. All the hospital covering and all those years, I didn’t realize until her funeral that Derek’s mother was my savior, ‘Big Mamma.’
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Street experienced-Folks were kind to me, I learned not to judge and to try to pay back. Legal doesn’t always mean moral and vice versa. My three brothers and sisters and I were living with our babysitter, who we called Aunt Chris. Her husband, Uncle Darryl was a thief and a drug dealer. One day, he caught me scraping the bottom of aunt Chris’ purse for change. I didn’t sleep a wink all night. I had no idea where my poor mother would house us. The next day, Uncle Darryl took me to the corner grocery, introduced me as his nephew and got me a job sweeping and cleaning.
Stoic- I love women, always have. Once two brothers strangled me with a bike chain to get revenge for me taking liberty with their sisters. I woke up on top of a bike surrounded by broken glass. Another time I banged on the ‘Star Bar’ door. My father was inside and too drunk to walk home or let alone drive. I was only 14 but back then we seemed to become adults quicker. As I banged, light pierced the door, coming from two small holes. Simultaneously, I heard pop, pop and Jimmy McCarthey exited the bar. The holes missed me by inches. “Yell before you bang on the door kid!” he screamed. “I almost killed ya.”
Catholic/Franciscan- Jesus told us that he who was without sin should throw the first stone and to love others as he loved us. He died on the cross for his principles. I’m a sinner and just hope that God is merciful, not just. Saint Francis taught us to be kind and generous. He was gentle and patient. The saints are pillars of our church, my faith and he’s one of my favorites.
Luck-When I was a kid, my friends used to say that I stepped in shit and came out smelling like a rose. I’ve been involved with the law often, mostly on the wrong side of the door and though I’ve been through countless situations, I’ve never been convicted. Like I said, lucky for me that the earth is not a place for justice.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the concept of becoming free from failure. Let’s zoom in a bit. From your experience, why exactly are people so afraid of failure? Why is failure so frightening to us?
In my town, Altamura in Puglia, we say, ‘Fai bene scordetalo, fai male e non scordare mai.’ This means to do good and forget, but if you harm someone, you never forget what you did.
One time after a fight in my neighborhood, Bridgeport on the Southside of Chicago some of my friends came to my house while I was sleeping. They shot into a chair in my front room. The wall was plasterboard and the bullet mushroomed an inch under where my sleeping head lay.
I try to do my best to help others and I’ve looked death in the eyes more than a few times. He’s just the medium who will take me to eternity. I’m not frightened by the trip. This makes life so much easier to live.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
If you don’t give it a try, you’ll never know. Once when we were kids, me and my brother loaded the television set onto a wagon and brought it to the repair shop on 69th street, the heart of the South, Little Italy. It was bitter cold. The owner took the back out and brown goo spilled onto the repair counter. His assistant ran up to the front and pushed the roaches into a box. The owner hurriedly put a screw on and screamed, “Get this set out of here, or I’ll squash you like one of your roaches.” I wasn’t embarrassed and probably at that age, already too stupid to be scared. I stared at him and me and my brother lifted the set onto the wagon. We knew to check our clothes but never thought about the set.
I can’t remember too many times when I looked away from life. I feigned it a few times to garner favor but pretty much live in my skin with the cards I’ve been dealt. Today, it seems that many are fearful of who they are. They all want to change, but a cat’s still a cat, even if it eats dog food. We need to be happy with who we are. Nature, the Lord, dealt us those cards. We must be strong enough to play the best hand we can with the cards we’re dealt.
Fearing failure turns us all into cowards. Cowards do crazy things… they often don’t live life, but run away from it.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the fear of failure can help improve our lives?
Each day we, and the people who surround us, make many mistakes, miscalculations — some small, some not so small. I always say that a smart guy learns from his mistakes, a wise person also learns from others’ mistakes. Mistakes are part of learning. If you’re afraid of learning, you’re also afraid of loving and living.
We would love to hear your story about your experience dealing with failure. Would you be able to share a story about that with us?
I’ve failed at so many things that it would take a lifetime to cover. The hardest thing for me to deal with is that I was outsmarted by Bluebird Bio and Third Rock Ventures. My son would have been cured by now if it was not for their greed and actions. I know that if I wanted to eliminate them, hunt them down and take their lives, I could easily do so. It’s not arrogance. 90% of murders in the US are never solved. I lie at night wondering what the right thing would be for a father, a shepherd, to do. Me allowing myself to be tricked, fooled, has cost many lives, many years of life. Up until now, I deal with it. I am a Franciscan. I hope that I can always deal with it in the most Franciscan way. It often is difficult.
How did you rebound and recover after that? What did you learn from this whole episode? What advice would you give to others based on that story?
There’s really no recovery. It’s a struggle day after day. I’ve learned that Catholicism is stronger than I thought, and that it isn’t always easy to separate love from, or connect to, mercy.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that everyone can take to become free from the fear of failure”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Be tolerant of others. The most deplorable person has some goodness.
When I was a kid, I robbed stuff from stores, bikes and eventually graduated to larger things. But I could never rob someone whom I perceived as being poor and often gave away much of my ill-gotten fruits by giving them to people who I thought were in need. As horrible as I was, there was something kind, even about me.
2. He who is without sin, should throw the first stone. As others sin, so have I.
Today we love to condemn one another. The web is filled with hate for racists, child molesters, abusers etc. But aren’t these people just sick? I mean do you think that a child molester wants to be the way he or she is? Do you think that the ignorance of a racist or someone who abuses another is not also just sickness? We say that victims get closure when a man or woman is put in jail; but isn’t this just revenge? What does revenge, dealt out by the state, have to do with who we are? Who the Lord is? I’ll tell you. Nothing.
When I was a teenager, me and another guy got the tires off of a car and were taking off when the owner arrived. He didn’t scream or yell. His calm bravery may have very well saved my life. “Hit him in the head!” came the call from my accomplice. The man just kindly stared at me. “Son, you’re gonna give me my tires.” I did and he saved my life. Putting people in jail, like what happened to my little brother and many others, just turned them into career criminals. I am a sinner and no better than the child molester or assassin, maybe luckier. I’m wired differently.
3. Tomorrow starts in the morning. We can completely disown yesterday. Tomorrow starts in the morning. I reinvented myself many times over. Once when I was a kid, my mother sent me to buy plastic drapes. I stole them and put the money back into her purse. She caught me and figured it out. She walked with me back to the store. I paid for the drapes. Now the store probably needed those few dollars a lot less than my mother and we did, but her stalwart integrity, though I wasn’t 100% convinced, altered my life.
4. We are truly limited. We know very little about life and even less about others’ lives. Arrogance and selfishness are the true evil weakness within. Battle them with all your might.
The guy that cut you off or the person who robbed your car may have just lost a loved one or needed money for his mother’s operation. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes. Through the years, I adopted the idea that if someone asked me for money and I could swing it, I would gift it to them. If they paid me back, that was great, if not it was a gift anyway. So many times, I realized just how many folks are struggling through no or little fault of their own, and in fact according to the government 63% of children and 55% of adults in the US live in asset poverty. I often learned of truly sad situations about others. This led me to the lines that “man’s laws are optional but God’s mandatory,” and “I’d rather give money to someone in need than to spend it on something I don’t need.”
Once, I cracked a fellow trader who charged me, after I tried to buy contracts he was offering. He was going bankrupt and needed to lower their price for the close. I had no idea. I’ve never really gotten over it. I would have helped him lower the price had I known.
5. Remember your greatest evil, immoral, unholy, dishonorable act. Remember it each time you think of punishing someone else for their acts. We all have quirks and strange things about ourselves, which if the state decided to convict us of them, we’d all be in prison…every one of us.
In our neighborhood, we lived with guys who had reputations for doing some gruesome, awful things. A few of those men were really kind to me. One should not be judged by one or a few acts because the media or the state decides to make an example of them.
The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Based on your experience, have you found this quote to be true? What do you think Aristotle really meant?
I’ve never heard this saying and ‘googled’ it. There were a few explanations. The one I liked the best was that It’s nearly impossible to hit the bullseye. I, instead, believe that we’ll never be perfect but we must do our best, and by doing our very best is the only way to succeed, even if we do not hit the bullseye.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would bring down the CEO’s and executives who have poisoned our food and commercialized healthcare. After I was finished with that, I would dismantle all organizations that focus on weakness, victimization, greed, and division. If I love someone, I tell them to lose weight, it’s better for their health. I don’t make fat mannequins. I don’t give people excuses to be anything but the best they can be and I certainly hold them to their own personal responsibility.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
Pope Francis, Noam Chomsky and Jordan Peterson
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Company website, sanroccotherapeutics.com
Personal website, patgirondi.com
Book coming out, Flight of the Rondone
Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success