The Possibility of Personal Belief

Do the economic headlines of today make you feel discouraged and fearful ?  Do you worry about  economic gloom and doom and tend to feel anxious or paralyzed by external events, or do you see possibility and opportunity for daily action based on strong personal beliefs and a bold yet pragmatic plan that focuses on rich opportunities, your talents and the value of what you have to offer ?

You may well have heard the tale of Susan Boyle, a middle-aged woman of unremarkable appearance from a modest hamlet in Britain.  In 1995, Susan auditioned as a singer on a ‘Star Search’-like British TV show (‘My Kind of People’), only to be shamelessly mocked and insulted.  When Susan recently auditioned and was selected to appear – 14 years later – on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, she defied expectation and literally moved the audience and judges to tears with an exhilarating rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.  People all over the world are wearing t-shirts of Susan, Larry King interviewed her, Hollywood wants to make a film with her, Oprah has invited her as a guest on her TV show, and Elaine Page, Susan’s hero, wants to perform a duet with her.

J.K. Rowling, renowned for her magical ‘Harry Potter’ series of books, has become one of the world’s most celebrated authors, reportedly having become a billionaire from her magical writings.  Her books enjoy immense popularity around the globe, critical acclaim and commercial success, having sold over 400 million books and translated into 67 languages.  The last four of J.K.’s series about Harry’s struggle against an evil wizard have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history.  ‘Harry Potter’ has spawned an industry, including movies, video games and themed merchandise, all borne from the creative mind of one woman.  Yet, J.K. Rowling’s private journey was anything but simple.  Her mother died from multiple sclerosis, J.K. was subsequently diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide, all the while a single parent surviving on welfare while working on her first novel.

Chris Gardner’s story of trial and disappointment is well-chronicled in the film “Pursuit of Happiness”.  Frustrated in his quest to become a stock broker, Chris’ circumstance went from bad to worse during a 10-month interview process with a San Francisco-based firm.  His girlfriend ran off with their only son and all Chris’ belongings.  Soon thereafter, Chris found himself penniless, and jailed for ten days for unpaid parking fines, only to be released the day before his final interview.  Chris showed up for this crucial meeting in dirty jeans and a t-shirt, openly admitting the truth of having lost his son, being broke and released from jail one day earlier, and without a home.  To his amazement, the interviewer was sympathetic, having endured a painful divorce, and immediately put Chris in the company’s training program.  His son was soon returned to him, and together they survived on the streets, later finding the means to live in a $10-a-night motel.  Years later, having passed his broker’s exam and working for a major brokerage house, Chris struck out on his own, securing major clients and never looking back.

What compels some people to quit in the face of adversity and rejection, while others pursue their dream with a single-minded sense of purpose ?  Why is quitting not an option for some ?  What force of will fuels people to rise above bad circumstances or a string of initial failures ?

Anatole France reminds us ‘to accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe’.  Confucius’ wisdom held “our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”

Why most give up after a few rejections is not so much a mystery, as a magnificent tragedy.  Lack of belief in oneself is the stuff of emptiness, frustration, dashed dreams, plowed-under human capacity, negative self-image and sadness, whereas persistence and hard work fueled by belief in oneself yields the miracle of joy and contribution, success and meaning.  Is it possible to accomplish your true purpose, live a joyous and richly rewarding life, and enjoy a persistence borne of a balance between head and heart when you’re busy beating up on yourself for a momentary ‘failure’ ?  Can you imagine what you might accomplish if you held fast to an unshakeable belief in yourself ?

Waking each morning, we are given a choice and it is ours to choose wisely.  Do you choose to listen to and consume the fear and skepticism so prevalent in the marketplace of humanity, surrounding yourself with those who encourage anxiety, negativity and limitation, or do you choose to believe deeply in yourself and thoughtfully embrace – both personally and professionally – those who align with your values and life vision ?

One choice results in the ultimate injustice of not bringing forth our best and our greatest gifts to be shared, the other choice yields rewards beyond our limited imagination.

A Love Affair with Failure

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success?

It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure.

You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success.

But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it.

So go ahead and make mistakes.

Make all you can.

Because remember that’s where you will find success.”


~ Thomas J. Watson Sr. (Founder, IBM)


Here’s the truth.

I have failed all my life.

Here’s my other little secret.

I love failure.

Failure and success are the same damn thing.  We just malign failure and celebrate success.  We’re judgmental creatures.  We live by a system of weights and measures.  We’re in denial.

Looking back, my pattern is simple:  failure, failure, persistence, failure, stubborn persistence, failure, rejection, staying the course, failure, persistence, mentoring, persistence, more mentoring, success, oops – a little more failure, more mentoring, even more success (the hard work is a given, a constant, never forget that), and a dash of failure again, always leading to bigger successes.

We are put here to learn, to become better and more dimensional beings.  Our time is limited.  Every day counts.  There comes a moment when each of us must choose to retire our ‘internal tapes’, quit acting out old habits that don’t serve or enrich or deliver successful results.

Failure energizes me.  Failure teaches me my most valuable lessons, makes me re-commit to belief in self, to internal and external goals.  Failure is an essential ingredient to enduring success.  Failure and success live in the same house, always will.

I was rejected from law school.  Did I become an attorney ?  Yes !

Every film I’ve ever produced was a failure many times before it came together creatively or as a business matter.  Did I get films produced ?  Yes !

Is failure 100% to be desired ?  Yes !   If you’re not trying, learning, failing, then you’re not in the game.  Failure (not a negative, not a pejorative or judgement, just falling shy of your ultimate goal) means you’re on the road to success.  Most just quite a few yards shy of their goal, not realizing the hard work’s already been done.

If you want to impact ever greater numbers of people, don’t fear failure and don’t give it a bad rap when it comes along.  Be grateful.

Success is our destination, ‘no’ is simply how we get there.


Quitting is Never an Option

What compels some people to quit in the face of adversity and rejection, while others pursue their dream with a single-minded sense of purpose ?  Why is quitting not an option for some ?  What force of will fuels people to rise above bad circumstances or a string of initial failures ?

The rags-to-riches story of John Paul deJoria personifies the American Dream.  Spending much of his youth in a street gang in East Los Angeles, John Paul deJoria was repeatedly admonished by his high school math teacher that he would “never, ever succeed at anything in life.”  After a couple of years in the Navy, deJoria aimlessly floated through a series of jobs, from janitor, to pumping gas, to bicycle repair, to selling encyclopedias, insurance and copier machines.  Still in his twenties and too proud to ask for help, deJoria found himself homeless, sleeping in his car.  Eventually he landed a job for $650 a week with Redken Laboratories, the leading professional hair salon product company.

When he was fired by Redken, deJoria approached his friend Paul Mitchell, a leading hair designer and, with $750 of borrowed funds, they partnered in a new hair styling product enterprise.  The ‘enterprise’ consisted of a post office box and phone answering machine.  Visiting salons door-to-door, they offered to do free demonstrations – a sales strategy never before used in the business.  They even offered a full money-back guarantee if a salon did not sell 100% of all their products.  Despite their boldly innovative approach, the majority of doors were slammed in their faces.  That was then.

Today, the company’s annual revenues top $1 billion.  Although unable to afford color packaging when starting out, their products bear their black and white brand to this day – a reminder of their humble beginnings.

Fran Harris proudly wears a ring.  Playing for the Houston Comets the very first season the WNBA was formed, Fran’s talent as a professional athlete was the stuff of legend.  Yet, it’s the personal side of her journey that makes Fran a true champion.  Growing up in a modest section of Dallas, Texas, Fran’s mother died when Fran was in her teens and, while two of her brothers went to jail, one of them also suffered a serious issue with drugs.  Not having a formidable success model in her world, Fran was nonetheless determined not to be a teenage mother or fall prey to drugs, but to make a better life for herself.

Fran began playing NCAA basketball while at the University of Texas at Austin.  Later, amidst the politics of the sports world, Fran was cut from the U.S. Olympic Women’s basketball team, and swore she’d never play basketball again.  With degrees in journalism, she went on to get her Ph.D. in business administration and become a successful young entrepreneur.  Then the WNBA was announced.  It was 1997 and Fran hadn’t played basketball in over eight years.  But her dream was rekindled.  She decided on the spot she had to play in the first-ever season of this new professional league.

Fran announced to friends inside and outside the sports world that she was going to try out.  Every last person gave her reasons not to do it.  She was too old, she hadn’t played in too many years, she was out of shape, she shouldn’t risk the business success she’d worked so hard to achieve, she was 30 years old !  Despite the odds – there were only two spots available on the Houston Comets team – Fran didn’t listen.  She began training daily and changed everything – the way she ate, the way she walked, the way she spoke – all in pursuit of her single-minded goal.  When she entered the gym for final tryouts, Fran faced 250 younger women athletes all vying for the very same two spots.  Fran was chosen to play for the Houston Comets, and the team went on to win the first season’s championship.  Fran wears that ring to this day as a reminder that no force should keep a person from the life they deserve.

 John Grisham is one of the world’s best-selling authors, with over 250 million books in print in dozens of languages, and whose books have given us some of the greatest films of our time.   Before turning to writing, Grisham was devoted to the idea of being a baseball player.  That dream was dashed when he was cut from his college baseball team.  Grisham went on to become a lawyer, practicing in a small town firm for a decade.

In 1984, having witnessed the harrowing testimony of a 12-year old rape victim, Grisham began writing his first novel.  What if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants ?  Three years later, he completed a manuscript entitled “A Time to Kill”.  The rejections came fast and often, and for a long while thereafter.  Publishers and publishing agents seemed unanimous in their response.  It was only persistence that finally found Grisham’s manuscript picked up by a small press that printed a limited number of copies of his book.

Throughout, Grisham never wavered and busily went to work authoring his second novel, ‘The Firm’, which went on to become the seventh bestselling novel of 1991.  Grisham’s novels connected with audiences worldwide, and films spawned by many of his works, including ‘The Client’, ‘The Pelican Brief’ and ‘The Runaway Jury’ went on to enjoy stunning commercial success.

Have you ever suffered a defeat or fallen short of a goal ?  When faced with great difficulty or repeat rejection in the past, has your habit been to abandon your vision ?  Did you somewhere deep inside feel you cheated yourself or that if you’d only dug a bit deeper or tried a slightly different approach, you might have met with success ?

Either you determine what constitutes the difference between a success-in-the-making and a failure, or you allow others to make that judgement for you.  Either you persist and adopt strategies with unflagging determination to realize your result, or you give way to your doubts, fears and perceptions of what others might think.

One of the greatest architects of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright, said “I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.”  Yet as Seth Godin wrote: “Persistence isn’t using the same tactics over and over. Persistence is having the same goal over and over.”