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The anatomy of failure


Photo by aitoff on Pixabay


Istvan Szabo - The anatomy of failure


More than 15 years ago, I had the most impressive seasonal job ever. I sold CDs on the street on hot summer days, dressed up smartly with a funny tie and a backpack full of my 30 lb everyday hassle, I had to get rid of before the dark settled. I approached 300 people a day on the streets, knocking on doors of random companies or anywhere where there could be a sales opportunity. The rule was not to judge anyone by appearance. 270 of them were negative, mostly very negative and scornful. 30 of them were somewhat positive, and 10 of them were my buyers. Those later ones either liked my style or they just felt sorry, maybe sometimes they liked the product as well, but most importantly, they were there every day among those 300 people, young or old, men or women, sympathetic or antithetic, nice or rude. It was not a rocket science, just pure statistics.

With my colleagues we had a motto: “Each no will take you closer to the yes”. Indeed, this short sentence was burnt into my mind on the streets of Budapest, full of concrete and all the time over 90 °F. If I didn’t collect enough no by the end of the day, I could be sure that I had to stroll back to the base camp with a similarly heavy bag as in the morning. If I let myself turn down by a negative person and I lost time with crying or getting myself into an unproductive dispute, I arrived home without money in my pockets that day.

Since then, more than 15 years passed but the moral of my story is still fitting very well to my entire life on a large scale. Behind every success, there are years of failures. If Michael Jordan is not cut from the 9th grade basketball school, if Oprah Winfrey is not terminated from a TV, if Walt Disney is not dismissed from a newspaper due to his lack of imagination, if Steve Jobs is not fired from Apple, or if Einstein’s math teacher would not have told him that he will never amount to anything, then we would not even have Nokia 3210 invented yet.

Ok, a cell phone is not required for life, but I’m going even further. Failure is not only an unpleasant stowaway that we should simply get rid of. Failure is as essential ingredient in our life as the water in the soup. We all know that the water itself is not very tasty, not even nourishing, still to deliver all the important and heavenly parts of the soup into our stomach, it needs to be there in a dominant amount. More precisely: Water is the most important part of the soup. You can skip the carrot, some spices and the celery, but not the water. Similarly, failure is also one of the most important part of the evolution of the mankind. Without it, mankind would be in the very best scenario a delightful delicacy for the sharks right in this moment as I’m writing these lines. Random failures in the genetic code create the right diversity of the species which can resist the wide variety of elements that conspire against the certain species. Those species which able to represent the highest variety, thanks to - among other factors – mutations in the heredity, have the biggest chance to survive. Mutations are simply copying failures in the heredity of the genetic code.

Failure plays a significant role in our personal development too. We all get born fragile and naked. We all start with the same chance, and usually the most successful individuals will not be those who receive everything from life on a golden plate, but those who manage to stand up from enough failures. Therefore, at your next failure, never judge yourself or never let it set you back. If you had any kind of failure, may it be an unsuccessful relationship or a project or a failed exam, just think of it like the water in the soup. Start to be worried if you don’t experience failure for a while because that means that probably you don’t move fast enough, and others are taking the lead and getting something which should belong to you.


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