The F Word

Success is never a given, but learning from failures makes us wiser and gives us hope.
Photo by Gerald Schömbs on Unsplash
When I was a young teenager I had a book called 'The book of heroic failures' by Stephen Pile. It was a humorous celebration of human inadequacy and came with an application to join the 'Not Terrible Good Club of Great Britain' which had to close after 20,000 people applied to join and the founder had to be expelled for becoming a best selling author.

The book catalogued daft stories of men, women and animals who really did do their best but their best just wasn't good enough. It's not they were stupid or foolish. They were just really bad at what they did. For example, there was the angler who didn't catch a single fish in 40 years of trying, the racehorse that lost 103 races in a row and the Japanese soldier who didn't realise the 2nd World War had ended until 1974.

A quote that is often attributed to Winston Churchill (but also Abraham Lincoln and several others) says that 'Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm'. Success might just be various iterations of failure and it only really comes by persistence and resilience.

James Dyson made over 5000 prototypes before creating the one that changed vacuuming for men forever. Stephen Spielberg didn't get into film school at the first attempt but applied elsewhere and changed paddling in the sea for nervous swimmers forever. And Steve Jobs was kicked out of Apple in 1985 before returning 12 years later to change just about everything else. Forever.

Success is never a given, but learning from failures makes us wiser and gives us hope. Muscles grow because the muscle fibre is torn and then it heals. We have an aversion to pain and an aversion to failure but both help us grow and develop. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope.

As a fan of Wimbledon F.C. I understand a bit about perseverance and hope. In 1991 we lost our ground on Plough Lane and had to rent from some noisy neighbours. 11 years later the club was moved to Milton Keynes by it's owner and effectively died. But resilient fans gave the club a rebirth by forming a new team on Wimbledon Common in 2002 and next Tuesday, AFC Wimbledon, the fan-owned club, will play its first home game in its new stadium back on Plough Lane, a mere 29 years after it left.

As people and business owners we may never create a ground-breaking football club out of a bunch of wombles, or design a revolutionary carpet cleaner that's so strong it swallows the curtains, and we may not bring to the market a device that lets us go shopping, talk to our mums, look at what the weather will be like in Cuba next week, and take a photo that the whole world can see, all whilst sitting on the loo, but we might do something vaguely heroic that succeeds.

And that just might keep us out of volume 2 of Mr Pile's book.

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