From birth we all have a desire to achieve the things we set out to accomplish. This doesn't have to be taught, it's an innate human characteristic. Have you ever watched small children trying to do something independently? They try over and over and over until finally they are able to do it with no concern for how many times they failed befored it was achieved. Somehow life experience teaches us that failure is a terrible thing and that we should avoid it at all costs. We're taught that we should feel ashamed when we fail and, after a few more unsuccessful attempts, that maybe we should just stop trying. If I surveyed a large group of people I'm certain the majority consensus would be that failure is a bad thing. However, a recent television interview gave me a new perspective on failure and I'd like to share it with you.
Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, is one of the wealthiest women in the US and was named in Time Magazine's list of the most influential people in the world. In a recent interview Blakely was asked about her opinion on failure and she shared that while growing up her father encouraged she and her brother to fail at something every day. Every night at dinner her father would ask them what they failed at during the day and he would be disappointed if they had nothing to report. To Blakely's father failing meant that they had actually tried something outside of their comfort zones and Blakely attributed much of her success to this daily habit. Ultimately the lesson learned was never to give up, to never stop trying, to be comfortable in discomfort, to step out on faith believing that you can actually achieve what you set out to achieve. Somehow Blakely's father had figured out a way to help his children sustain their innate determination so they wouldn't have to accept the world's view of failure.
If you listen to the stories of most influential people you'll see this same trend. Almost all of them were faced with some opposition that they were determined to overcome. Their desire to achieve outweighted their fear of failure to the point that, like for Blakely, failure became a positive because it meant that they actually tried. I welcome you to join me as I also transform my opinion of failure and step out to achieve my personal and professional goals.
Let your legacy be a story of perseverence, not a tale of surrender.
In a recent conversation I was forced to accept the fact that I don't have all the answers. I'm a very logical person by nature. I like to gather information and find evidence that supports my position so that by the time I make a decison there is little one can say to argue against me. As I've matured I've learned that there is always something I don't know and that there is always another perspective or point of view on a matter. I can accept that for most things but when it comes to issues concerning my personal life I always believed I should know everything. Accepting that I don't have all the answers about myself has proven to be a lifted burden. It's helped me see how much more I have to grow and made me excited about the journey.
A few days ago I revisited the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and found that my "new" insight is a principle in the book. Hill calls it the "Mastermind Principle" and he uses Thomas A. Edison as an example of how it works. Briefly put, Edison was a man of very little formal education, however, he was smart enough to realize that he could use the knowledge other people possessed to achieve his goals. Edison sought the expertise of people who were skilled in all the areas in which he was ignorant and, together, they created inventions that brought Edison great wealth. Edison recognized early on that he did not have all the answers and that he did not need them to be successful.
It may be difficult to see how this principle applies to personal development but it is necessary for anyone who truly wants to be their best self. In order to grow we must be humble enough to receive constructive criticism, mentoring, correction and guidance. We tend to be more accepting of such things professionally but they are also necessary personally.
Here's a challenge for you: ask someone who knows you well, and who you respect, to share one thing you could do to improve your relationship with others. Be open-minded, listen to the response, ask for examples, and don't be offended. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself.
Regardless of your religious beliefs it is an undeniable fact that the Bible is full of nuggets of wisdom that are applicable to everyone. One such pearl is found in Matthew 7:13-14 when Jesus encourages His followers to "Enter by the narrow gate..." which, while difficult, leads to life. Aside from spiritual connotation, this guidance is both relevant and profound for all people who seek to have an impact on the world around them and, since you are reading this, I believe you are such a person.
So what does it mean to "enter by the narrow gate"? Generally speaking, it means not to follow the crowd. It means to do what you know is right; to follow your heart and what you believe in even when it goes against the grain of everyone around you. We, as people, have a natural inclination to want to fit in. We want to feel like we are a part of something whether that's a family, a peer group, a team, etc. Our desire to feel like we belong is so strong that it can become detrimental to us. Once we feel we belong to a group we often follow the direction of that adopted group whether for the good or for the bad. This primal need is how children get caught up in gangs and eager young professionals get involved in corporate scandals, they just wanted to fit in.
This desire to follow the crowd is a subconscious, innate need. Scientific research has shown that on public transportation and on major highways the majority of passengers and cars are always in the center; the closer you get the the extremes the fewer people you find. Isn't this true of life? Start paying attention as you go about your days. When shopping in stores there's always more people in line at the center registers, always more people in the center of the crowd at concerts, the homes at the center of neighborhoods often sell more quickly. Why? Because we like to fit in and belong. There's always comfort and a sense of security in the crowd for which we yearn. We like to take the "broad gate" so we don't stand out and so everyone accepts us. But, I venture to say, that if you follow this blog you are tired of that crowd and you are ready to stand out.
Building a strong legacy requires that you think and step outside of the box. That you challenge the norm and refuse to settle for the status quo. Sure, we all leave a memory of ourselves behind that is itself our legacy but, if you're like me, we want to have an impact beyond the job you worked or the house you lived in. I want to be remembered as a person who inspired people, who motivated people, and who helped them to strive to reach their greatest potential. I want to build future leaders of the world who work not only to change their families and communities but to change the nations. If I am to achieve these goals I MUST stand out; I CANNOT fit in with the crowd. And so I challenge you today to "enter by the narrow gate" in your life so that your legacy is one of great power and profound impact. Can I count on you?
Romaine A. Wright