Watching the ESPY Awards and again seeing clips of the famous Coach Jim Valvano’s brave speech two decades ago and listening to his simple, but important words, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up…” it reminded me, once again, that winners, in life, business and in sport, rise above adversity and continue trying until they succeed.
History proves out the postulate that winners are people who are determined to reach their goals, no matter how grueling the journey may be. Winners readily face challenges and work hard to overcome obstacles and setbacks. On the other hand, quitters are easily disturbed by challenges, distracted by obstacles and upset by obstructions.
Most of us build a passion for something sometime in our lives, whether it’s sport, art, music or enterprise. But moving our passion to performance, achievement and success requires focus, hard work, diligence, a positive attitude and a “never quit” mindset.
Henry Ford innovated industrial production with the assembly line. However, before founding the extremely successful Ford Motor Company, he went bankrupt and was left penniless five times from failed ventures. By the same token, Walt Disney, who created a multi-billion dollar entertainment empire, was fired from his first job at the Kansas City Star because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Steven Spielberg, after high school, was rejected three times from the University of Southern California School of Theatre, Film and Television. Following his passion (and dream), he pursued directing motion pictures without a degree.
The story line is consistent. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school’s varsity basketball team. Harland Sanders, known as “Colonel Sanders,” submitted his now world famous fried chicken recipe to well over 1,000 restaurants before finding his first buyer. Now let’s take a peek at U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Failing in business in 1831, suffering a nervous breakdown in 1855, defeated in his run for president in 1856 and suffering business and political loss after loss, Lincoln was no stranger to rejection and failure. No different than Ford, Disney, Spielberg, Jordan, Sanders and countless others — rather than taking signs of failure and setback as a motivation for surrender —Lincoln and a long list of other successful people, refused to stop trying, refused to quit and the rest is history.
And so, the threshold question is, “What can I do to overcome challenges, failures, obstacles, setbacks and ultimately succeed in the face of adversity?”
Using lessons from historical failures, the following is a solid checklist for you to read, heed and succeed.
1. Accept the reality nobody likes to lose. Nobody enjoys failure or setbacks. “All human unhappiness comes from not facing reality squarely, exactly as it is,” — Buddha. Once you face and accept the current state of affairs (reality), you’ll be better able to course correct.
2. Be totally honest with yourself. There is no time for blame. All failure and conversely all success is in your hands. Don’t be hard on yourself but be honest with yourself. Mark Twain said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
3. When you’re through learning, you’re through. Mistakes and failures are not problems. Not taking the opportunity to learn from them is surely a problem. The potential for success is all about how you apply what you’ve learned from failure.
4. Turn the page. Move away from your history. Even though an outcome didn’t end up the way you hoped, your future can be better than you can envision. Our history shouldn’t define us. Our history should provide us a guide on what to do and what not to do as we go and grow forward.
5. Don’t talk. Just act. Yes, don’t talk about your failure. Don’t talk about what you’re going to do to course correct. Success, in the face of adversity, comes from focused, energetic, pragmatic action. Just act. Legendary hotel magnate Conrad Hilton said, “Success is connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”
6. Be bold. Be brave. Avoid the fear of failure. Ironically enough, it’s not failure that stops us in our tracks. It’s actually the fear of failure that can paralyze us. Failure is not a permanent state. Hall of Fame UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Failure isn’t fatal but failure to change might be.” Give yourself permission to fail but more importantly, motivate yourself to rise above the failure and learn from it.
It’s the inspirational story of author JK Rowling who wrote her first “Harry Potter” book when she was divorced, bankrupt, on welfare and being rejected by over 50 publishers. It's the glimpse at life of the iconic Theodor Suess Geisel (Dr. Seuss) whose first book was rejected 27 times, motivating him to burn the book’s manuscript and consider quit writing. It's the tale of the Wright Brothers who put in countless hours to create flying machine after flying machine, watching each painfully crash into the sand at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The lesson goes on and on.
Winners never quit and quitters never win.
Don’t give up. Don’t every give up.