Failure and Disappointment

No matter how awesome you are, at some point, things aren’t going to work out right.  It’s a simple fact of life.  Your girlfriend breaks up with you, you get shot down by the girl of your dreams, you get laid off from work, or any of a number of possibilities.  All of these things happen to each and every one of us.

Photo by H. Michael Karshis
Photo by H. Michael Karshis

What defines a man in this regard is how he deals with it.

Everyone encounters it at some point, but the issue is that many can’t accept that it happens nor use it in a positive manner.

Several years ago, I bought a newspaper. This is long before Portlandia had someone do the same thing for laughs.  I really did it.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.  The reasons are irrelevant, but it didn’t.

It would have been easy to roll over and die.  Failure hurts, and because the success was pretty public, so was the failure.  That made it worse for me.

However, I thought about other fails throughout history.  In particular, Steve Jobs.  I read his biography a short time after he died, and I was struck with one very important thing.  Jobs failed.

Steve Jobs was bounced as Apple’s CEO.  He got fired, which had to feel like a failure to Jobs.  So what did he do?  He found something else to become great at.

Keep in mind that when you watch Toy Story or any other Pixar movie, you’re looking at Steve Jobs legacy.  He created one of the most profitable moviemaking operations in history…after he was fired as CEO of the computer company he built.

When you hit a roadblock, you have to find a way around it.

For me, it was writing for other sites with a much higher profile than I’d ever enjoyed before, sites like PJ Media and The Daily Caller, and be paid for it.  It was writing novels and a nonfiction book on masculinity.

No, I’m not the pinnacle of success, but I also haven’t let my failure keep me down.

Too many people take failures personally and use it as an excuse to do nothing more.  They crawl back into their own lives and refuse to really reach again.

I’ll be honest, it’s understandable.

When you reach for your dreams, the early days are euphoric.  It’s like a drug.  When it falls apart, however, it’s like a knife in the gut.  It’s rock bottom for a junkie who has had enough of the heroin and never wants to go back down that road.

The thing is, that’s the easy way out.


Something I often tell myself when I’m faced with adversity is, “This is going to be great in my biography.”  It’s not because I’m assured of someone writing a biography about me, but because adversity makes for a better story, and I love a good story.

Think about it for a minute.  All the great stories are about someone not taking the easy way out.

In John Wick, the title character could have just called the police to report his dog had been killed, he’d been attacked, and his car stolen.  That would have been the easy way out.  Instead, Wick took down the entire Russian mob.

Hardly the easy way, was it?

“Oh, come on, Tom.  That’s fiction.”

Yeah, it is. But the biography of Steve Jobs wasn’t, and it was also a compelling story.  But why does a compelling story matter?

It matters because we respect those who rise from adversity.  We love the underdog winning out.  We cheer when David slays Goliath.  As a species, we love it when people win against adversity.

On the flip side, while we may understand why some refuse to put themselves out again, we also lose a little bit of respect for that person.  We may understand it, but we don’t appreciate it.  Especially if you’re someone who has failed and risen again.

For me, it’s hard to really respect those people.  I have a lot more respect for the guy who tries over and over again and fails, only to get back up and work out his next plan than for the guy who tried once, failed, then crawled away to never give it another shot.

Failure is going to happen.  You can’t control that.

What you can control is what you do with it.



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