Success is failure.
Ever feel like a failure? Ever look around at friends or family and think, “So-and-so has it going on and look at me?” Ever look at someone’s happy selfies and family photos on Facebook or Instagram and feel like an utter, unmitigated, complete failure?
(I will stop lying if you will.)
Successful people often make success look natural
It is easy to look at a professional athlete, a corporate CEO, a famous actor or musician and assume that the person is so singularly gifted, he must have always succeeded.
Success must have just come so easily to her. Look how effortless it looks.
It is easy to assume the star athlete doesn’t have to make terrific physical and mental sacrifices, denying urges, turning down invitations, getting up early and staying longer on the practice field than anyone else.
He is such a natural.
It is easy to look at the super wealthy, self-made world-beater and think making money to that guy is like falling off a log.
I started thinking about success last night after reading a terrific article about one of the heroes of my youth, the inimitable, indomitable, (I thought) indestructible Earl Campbell.
Football was Campbell’s salvation. The article reveals how Campbell was raised by a single mom after his dad died when he was in the fifth grade. He had 10 brothers and sisters. Imagine the hardship for that woman and her kids.
In the 1970s, Tyler, Texas was a town still divided along racial lines. The thing that most brought the people of Tyler together, the thing that transcended racial barriers and had blacks and whites sitting together, cheering together? High school football.
Earl Campbell, nicknamed “The Tyler Rose,” became the greatest football hero the city would ever produce. He would lead his team to a state championship. As a senior at the University of Texas, he would win the Heisman trophy. The next year, he would win NFL rookie of the year. He would be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and listed among the greatest to ever carry a football.
Football, however, is a short-lived thing, even if you have a Hall of Fame career. There has to be life after football and Campbell found success there, too, with his meat company and signature Earl Campbell hot links.
If you assume, however, that Campbell’s story of success has been a bed of roses, you assume too much. As Brian D’Ambrosio shares in the Huffington Post article referenced above…
Earl Campbell was a glorified superhero of brute professionalism — and his body has paid the price of that violent absorption.
In 2009, Campbell was recovering from his fifth back operation after being diagnosed with a genetic condition called spinal stenosis — in other words, his spinal cord canal narrowed to the point that it compressed his nerves.
To mute the incessant pain, his doctor prescribed high-potency pain medication. Soon, he began mixing the Vicodin and Oxycontin with Budweiser.
Nothing about addiction is ever prettily orchestrated. Pain eases. Pain is tamed. But then the substances overwhelm.
Campbell began fumbling his words, alienating family, struggling to remember formerly familiar things, and squandering important business opportunities.
His two sons, Tyler and Christian, told their father one morning that they worried about his health, and that they would be admitting him to a rehabilitation center. That, he says, was without question “the lowest point in my life.”
He went along with the scenario. But at first, he was incredulous about his needing clinical help.
“I didn’t believe I belonged with people hooked on heroin, cocaine. But I began to see myself in all of their stories and realized that we were all fighting the same fight.”
The date of November 16, 2013, marked Campbell’s four-year anniversary of being clean of alcohol and painkillers.
“I am incredibly fortunate to have my family’s support and access to medical care and addiction treatment care. Other individuals and families who battle addiction aren’t so lucky.”
Campbell believes that God rescued him from the destructive throes of addiction.
“I thank God for the support of my family and fans,” says Campbell.
Successful people fail forward
John Maxwell, the noted Christian author/thinker/motivator, wrote the bestseller Failing Forward a decade or so ago. A few notable passages in the book can be gleaned to classify what it means to “fail forward.”
“Failure is an inside job. So is success. If you want to achieve, you have to win the war in your thinking first. You can’t let the failure outside you get inside you.” -John Maxwell
In other words, keep failure in perspective.
Failing only makes you a failure if you fail to keep it in perspective. Extrinsic failure can be overcome. Letting it become intrinsic makes it chronic.
For decades, Hank Aaron was baseball’s homerun leader with 755. (Some say he still is. Steroids beat him.) He is also number 87 on the all-time strikeout list with 1,383. The all-time strikeout leader? Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. He is joined in the top five by Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, Adam Dunn, and Alex Rodriguez.
Guess those guys didn’t think failing made them failures. They just kept swinging.
Another quote from Maxwell’s book is from Paul Meyer:
“Ninety percent of all those who fail are not actually defeated. They simply quit.” -Paul J. Meyer
What was it Vince Lombardi said so succinctly and eloquently?
Oh yeah. “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
Roberto Duran was a fabulous, fierce boxer. But he has spent a lifetime trying to explain or explain away the time he threw in the towel against Sugar Ray Leonard. He. Just. Quit.
You cannot cry, “No mas! No mas!”..and win.
“One of the greatest problems people have with failure is that they are too quick to judge isolated situations in their lives and label them as failures. Instead, they need to keep the bigger picture in mind.”
Now, here is an interesting−and common–problem. We too often label an isolated incident or event as a failure, when it is just a component of a larger event that ultimately succeeds. The late 19th Century New Yorker named Thomas Adams failed miserably when he tried to make tires from the sap of a Sapodilla tree. Then he saw a girl buy a piece of chewing gum made of Paraffin from a street vendor and, voila, he realized the substance was not the problem. It was the application. He converted his plant to a chewing gum factory and Chiclets chewing gum was born.
“The fight to take responsibility occurs within. And rarely does talent, intelligence, or opportunity make the difference in whether a person wins that battle. It calls for character.” -John Maxwell
How do you define character? Consistency? Honesty? Hard work? Dedication? Persistence?
Someone once said, “Reputation is what other people think you are. Character is what you know you are.”
If you do not respect or trust yourself, how can you do anything but fail?
Success IS failure!
He lamented in Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
Jesus Christ, Son of God, God the Son, expressed a longing, a desire, that went unfulfilled and it broke His great heart.
He failed to gather them, but did He fail?
No. Failure was success. Rebellion would result in redemption. Sin would bring grace. Selfishness would be met by sacrifice. Death would open the door to life. Jesus would draw Jerusalem–along with every human in every generation–to a rugged cross on a skull-shaped hill.
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32
And so He was. And so He did. And so He does.
I know it is not cool in these enlightened, post-modern times to like simple poetry that has cadence, or meter, and rhymes. I don’t care. I still like it.
I have loved this particular poem from the first time I heard a preacher quote it. I was probably eight or so. I committed it to memory and repeated it many times from pulpits across the fruited plains. It reminds me that success is not the opposite of failure. Success IS failure…turned inside out:
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow,
Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
If you fail to succeed in an endeavor, remember this: You MUST FAIL to succeed.
Fail forward. Don’t quit.
Don’t you ever, ever quit.