“If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein said that. He was considered a failure from an early age, not speaking until he was nearly four years old, and not speaking fluently until he was 12. His teachers thought he wouldn’t amount to much.
However, Einstein didn’t prove them wrong overnight. It was a long journey that took dedication, perseverance and a willingness to fail — repeatedly. In fact, those failures were what made it possible for him to achieve what he did and become the genius he’s known as today. Why? Because he learned from all of them.
I’m no stranger to failure myself. I flunked out the fourth quarter of my senior year in high school, was thrown out of the Marines, fired from several jobs, divorced and have experienced countless other mistakes and hiccups throughout my life. However, I managed to learn a few things from those failures — extremely important things and things that propelled me to the successes I’m enjoying today.
The only person you can control is yourself.
You might manage employees, but you certainly can’t control them. If you’re micro-managing them, you’re doing it wrong. Hire the best and the most brilliant then get out of their way and let them do their job. For controlling CEOs, this can be tough. But the sooner you get this one, the better off you and your company will be.
Some view failure as the ultimate loss of control. It isn’t. You can’t control the stock market, market forces, the weather or the dismal response your last marketing campaign received. What you can control is your reaction to it. Instead of blowing a fuse or assigning blame, you can choose to take responsibility, learn from your mistakes and make corrections going forward.
The only person who can help you is yourself.
That’s right. Anyone else in your life will let you down at some point – that’s just human nature. You are the only person you can count on 100% of the time. Once you realize you are the only one in control of your destiny, you can begin to make a significant change. But it won’t be easy.
That secret superpower that allows us to overcome adversity and steer a course over, under, around or straight through life’s many obstacles and challenges. Having guts is about living in the moment and doing things you’re afraid of right now — not tomorrow, not five years from now. It’s about being confident in your opinion, voicing that opinion and not being afraid to disagree with people.
Which allows us to bounce back from life’s many defeats to enjoy the fruits of our labor and eventual success. Perseverance is a major part of that. The journey that got me to where I am today gave me this insatiable drive, this compulsion to create change — to be change. It also taught me to genuinely care about people, to care about the community around me and to care about the impact I have on the future. Don’t limit yourself to what’s immediately doable. Instead ask, “What’s possible?”
That entrepreneurial spirit that inspires us to act on our biggest ideas and build a life and career for ourselves. With initiative comes the risk of failure, which is why doing so is well worth it. Either it takes you forward into a new direction, or you fail, and those failures take you in a new direction.
Which ultimately determines how hard we fight for our dreams. Tenacity can be summed up as, “improvise, overcome, adapt,” regardless of the odds. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. A tenacious person never has to say “would have,” “could have” and “should have.” Don’t think too long about things, just go for them.
To begin making real progress, you need to learn where you’re most comfortable, most skilled and most proficient. Then move on and find a place where you feel most uncomfortable, most uncertain and the most unsure of yourself. That’s the first step.
Einstein forged ahead with his theories, fearlessness and grit. We would all do well to emulate him. Remember, each defeat becomes an eventual victory.
Originally posted on Forbes.com (August 12, 2014).