“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Martin Luther King Jr
Failure is Rarely Frozen
How many times have you thought about giving up when your first attempt fails?
I know I have and it can be morale sapping.
You know it is the wrong thing to think but the easier option (moving on to something else) is attractive.
Failure is rarely frozen and the mistake we make is believing it to be so.
I want you to see failure as an arc and you are travelling along this arc. At the end of this arc is success but this success is dependent on not giving up.
I want to share with you two examples of the arc being long and how success was the result. I also want to share with you strategies and tools to help in the moments when you feel like giving up.
Superbad to Supergood
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are successful writers, producers and directors. They are a the creative team behind a slew of comedies in the last ten years. Their films include Pineapple Express, This is the End, Bad Neighbours and Knocked Up.
The one film I have left off the list is my personal favourite and their most famous – Superbad. A coming of age story about a group of teenagers determined to buy booze, get wasted and impress girls.
Seth and Evan met when they were both around thirteen years old. Seth was just starting a stand up career (at thirteen!) and Evan would write at home as a hobby.
Hours spent watching movies of all genres led them to thinking ‘We could make a better move than this.’ So they did.
At Thirteen they wrote Superbad. Sickening, huh? Such talent at such a young age. But here is the thing. The movie was not made for another ten years. Want to know why? In their own words, it was bad.
It took ten years of rewriting the material. They took on suggestions and notes from people they respected (including Judd Apatow). As soon as it was in a healthy shape it was ready for pitching..
Seth and Evan pitched the movie to a large number of movie studios executives. Whilst they loved the idea and the script they were not prepared to pay the money to bring it to the screen.
You have to remember that Seth and Evan were largely unknown. Seth was starting to be more successful with acting, but they were a risk. No studio wanted to spend $20 million dollars on something that might fail.
Finally after ten years of writing and revising the script, attempting to sell the idea to studios and never giving up Sony Pictures decided to green light the film.
Sony were kicking around the idea of funding undervalued directors/writers/actors. The idea was to turn small budgets ($20m is small change for big movie studios) into big box office.
They hit the jackpot.
In the opening weekend the film took $33m at the US box office and the film grossed over $161m worldwide.
Giving up did not enter into the minds of Seth and Evan. They believed the idea they had was great. They just needed to find someone who felt the same and would fund the film..
The arc of history is long but it can bend towards you.
The $1 Billion Idea
Seth and Evan’s journey on the face it about patience, determination and a belief in the story they wanted to tell.
I’m sure life got in the way at various points but there is no real hint of anything untoward or debilitating. Nothing attempting to knock them from their course, resulting in them giving up.
Real life throws up lots of obstacles. Our reactions will determine whether we maintain course or we start to wobble and give up.
If I say the name JK Rowling what springs to mind? Rowling has achieved immeasurable success but her path to success was not straight forward. Her arc was also long but she did everything to bend it towards her.
in 1990 she had the first kernel of an idea. An idea about a young wizard called Harry Potter.
Excited by this idea she made copious notes and the world of this young boy started to take shape. Balancing regular life with writing was tough but Rowling had no thoughts of giving up. She was just getting started.
Like most death, unexpected tragedy struck and her Mother passed away at the age of 45.
Rowling wanted a fresh start and a new environment. She decided to move to Portugal and teach. She also set herself a deadline for finishing the book.
More heartache hit when Rowling split with her husband, so she returned to Scotland. Her return was painful but out of this pain she had something positive – her new born Daughter.
Anyone with young children will know how challenging it can be to concentrate on any one task, let alone writing a future best seller.
Unemployed and with little income Rowling would take the opportunity to write when she could. In most cases this was when her Daughter fell asleep. Rowling would find the nearest coffee shop and write.
Rowling now had the outline for the first book. Three years on from having a germ of an idea she pulled together the first three chapters. With the help of her agent she approached various publishing houses.
12 different publishers rejected the manuscript and Rowling’s mood was low.
Bloomsbury Publishers were the 13th company to receive the manuscript. The editor reviewing Rowling’s work passed it to his eight year old Daughter. She read the first three chapters and demanded to read the rest of the book.
Bloomsbury knew they had a potential hit. The editor warned Rowling to get a day job as nobody made money from writing children’s books..
Here are the mind blowing numbers.
Total Movie Sales – $7.2 Billion
Book Sales – $7.7 Billion
DVD & Digital Sales – $1.9 Billion
Rentals – $607 Million
Toy Sales (estimate) – $7.3 Billion
Total Harry Potter Sales – $24.8 Billion
Rowling is now worth an estimated $1 Billion. Life threw many challenges her way. She chose to push on and giving up did not enter the equation.
Strategies and Tools
Not Giving Up
This may seem like an obvious answer but committing to not giving up is an often overlooked strategy. Making this pact with yourself means it will be much harder to quit when it gets tough.
Have a Goal and a Plan
Excitement and enthusiasm for a goal, without a plan, is likely to result in failure. Planning each step is vital. It will show you the direction you need to move and will inspire confidence.
Know That Stuff Will Happen
It is impossible to plan for every eventuality but there are scenarios you can expect and account for. Doing so allows you to mentally prepare for the moment when they do happen. Anticipating how you might feel at these points is crucial in not giving up.
Draw on Previous Experiences
You have failed before, right? Failure is rarely fatal. Drawing on your previous experiences is crucial in helping you deal with setbacks.
Mindset is Crucial
Successful people have a strong correlation between their beliefs, behaviours and habits. Developing each of these to support the goal will help you deal with obstacles along the way.
Get a Mentor
Having a mentor generally means working with someone who has seen it and done it all. They share their lessons with you and guide you when times are tough. Choose your mentor carefully and you will have someone who can take the sting out of any sticky moments.
Friends Who Will Call You on Your BS
Our bragging or moaning can be checked by the people most close to us and those we trust. It is an important piece of the jigsaw and although we don’t like being called out on our behaviour it keeps us in check.
What You Have is Opportunity
During your arc you will experience stand out moments. These are often shaped by how you make people feel. Whatever you are dealing with remember the people around you. They will have their own individual battles, although they may not show it. You have an opportunity to help them (even when you may not feel like doing so). This act of kindness will be repaid, tenfold.
Every day I’m going out to go for a run (the goal was not weight loss or muscle gain, it was just to run and not give up)
When we set our sights on the prize we run the danger of focusing on just the goal and nothing else. Identify the small steps you need to take on a daily basis. What are the habits you need to develop every day to help you succeed in the goal?
I read a story recently about a guy who wanted to lose a significant amount of weight. If he thought about the amount he wanted to lose, the time this would take and the change to his diet it was enough to put him off.
He decided to simplify his goal and decided this was to run daily.
He did not care about the time or the distance, he just wanted to run daily. Over the course of three months he missed just two days.
He ran when he did not feel like it, he ran when the weather was horrible and he ran when it clashed with other social committments.
He did not want to give up on himself. The positive effect of approaching this in such a simple way was he ran for longer, got fitter and it was the start of his weight loss journey.
Always Know Your ‘Why’
When we come close to giving up and quitting we create lots of reasons for doing so. We are attempting to reconcile the feelings of guilt and grant permission to quit.
I’ve talked about this in several posts and the importance of knowing your ‘why’. You might know what you want to do. You might know how you are going to do it. If you do not know why you want to do it then you are likely to fail.
Think of the ‘why’ as your sense of purpose underpinned by your enthusiasm and passion for the goal. To understand your ‘why’ write down your goal and then ask yourself why you want this outcome.
Once you have the answer ask yourself why again and then repeat six times. It would work something like this:
Goal: I want to start my own restaurant.
Why?: It is something I have always wanted to do.
Why?: I think I would be good at it.
Why?: I love the service industry and food.
Why?: It gives me a great sense of satisfaction.
Why?: I like seeing people laugh and enjoy themselves
Why?: I want people to have an experience. Something they will never forget.
The purpose of the exercise is to get to the core of why you want to do something and what your sense of purpose will be.
In this example the ‘why’ for this person is the last answer. They want to provide an experience, something unforgettable.
If they have this is as their primary focus in everything they do they are less likely to want to give up. They have a strong sense of purpose underpinning what they will do and how they will do it.
Take Time Off and Relax
I do not subscribe to the idea of working crazy hours, in fact the opposite is true. Many people do not have the skill of understanding what is essential. Instead they throw themselves at everything and stretch themselves thin.
Knowing when to work hard and when to play hard is key in not giving up. It could be anything, but it has to be relaxing or fun – ideally both.
I have a four year old Daughter and I have just discovered trampoline parks. Great fun, great for getting the heart rate up and brilliant for forgetting about work and issues causing stress. Get out there and do something.
You don’t have to write the next Hollywood hit or be the next literary sensation.
Failure is not frozen. You are travelling across an arc and success is at the end of this arc. Giving up is the last thing you should do. You can smell and taste how close you are. Go and get it.
Believe and Take Action