Archives For success

“Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from.” – Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

In my personal and professional life, there are few days that go by that I don’t notice people who have done incredible things to make an impact. The world sees them as examples of success.

Sometimes, I wonder,

How did they achieve these things?

What made these people different?

After reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, it has become easier to answer these question. He asks the same question in his book and in his research discovered some amazing things about what makes these people unique (or not).

“People don’t rise from nothing….It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”

“Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.”

outliers

Gladwell shares many examples to support this including a personal story about his own mother and how she achieved success as an outlier. Let me explain my story.

When I was eleven years old and beginning my summer vacation before 6th grade, I was asked last-minute to join some friends in a golf tournament. At the time, I did not even remember what the tournament it was except that it was to be played in Kansas City, not far from where I grew up. I had been playing golf for a few years but golf was a distant fourth sport of choice behind baseball, soccer and basketball. I enjoyed the game and was intrigued by it but it wasn’t where I thought I would spend my time.

The night before the tournament it poured down rain in Kansas City. I think the tournament anticipated a hundred kids to play in it but the next morning only about fifteen showed up to play and I was one of them. I was a decent golfer for my age but as I mentioned, it wasn’t my priority sport.

I won the tournament that day. In fact, it made me the Missouri State Champion for the UCT Invitational and they gave me an all expenses paid trip to Victoria, Canada to play in the North American final. Crazy, huh? It was one of many events that propelled me forward in confidence and ability to keep getting better. It took me through high school golf, college golf, and amateur state play throughout the years.

Three years before the tournament that changed my life, my family moved across town in suburban Kansas City and our new house happened to be on the first hole of a small golf course. That particular golf course happened to be one of the best junior golf programs in all of the city, which provided me the best opportunity out of many kids to excel in the sport. My parents were not serious golfers but my grandparents bought me my first set of clubs that year and I took up the game. After given the opportunity to win that tournament, I never looked back and eventually quit my other sports to play more golf.

Lining up with my playing partners at the UCT North American Golf Tournament. That is me in the middle. Nice visor!

Lining up with my playing partners at the UCT North American Golf Tournament. That is me in the middle. Nice visor!

Like Gladwell suggests about Outliers, there was nothing about me that was particularly special except I was put in the right places and encouraged by the right people at the right times to play the game of golf, work hard at it, and excel in it. I was given the right chance to succeed. Gladwell expands the thought,

“Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them.”
Gladwell was spot on and my story is more confirmation of it.
What do we do with this?
Is life just a roll of the dice then? 
Gladwell doesn’t draw a specific conclusion on why certain people are chosen but he hints at something greater.
His hint is what strengthens my faith. It is humbling because it means that in life we never achieve success on our own. We need others. We need God to put us in the right places at the right times and guide us in his perfect purpose.
Think about something you’ve excelled at in life. 
How did it happen?
Who helped you?
What did you do about it?
It is there that you see God at work.

Why Failure Matters

November 8, 2012 — 4 Comments

I am a failure.

You know those contests where people have to guess how many M&Ms are in a mason jar? Well I’d be willing to bet my failures would add up to ten dozen of those jars. I’m just getting started, too.

I am amazed by the idea of failure. I remember so many failures in my life, it still hurts thinking about them.

Why does failure feel so bad? I love failure for a good reason. It causes a person to look deep into their soul to ask the deep questions of “why” and a “do I have what it takes?”

There are times in life when I failed and quit.

There are times in life when I failed and kept going.

Both of those times hurt. Sometime early in life I was being told to keep going during these times. I didn’t really know what that meant but the more I failed, the more I wanted to get through that emotion of personal disappointment. It took victory upon victory to see what the failures meant.

Great stories begin with failures and end with greatness. Pushing through failures produces the character that will ultimately take you on the journey of being a better person. It is like a marathon runner who hits ‘the wall’ midway through a race. The pain becomes so excruciating, that eventually your body tells you to stop. Some choose to stop. Some chose to continue. Those that continue, find something inside of them that pushes through the pain. By pushing through the pain, euphoria takes over and you suddenly float forward to finish.

In the midst of pain, we discover what matters most. It is a process but it awakens us to what life is supposed to be. The pain of failure and the process causes us to cry out to God for help. Pick up your Bible because it is full of men and women who have failed. Grace in the form of Jesus picked them up so they could keep moving. They were stronger, bolder, and humbler because of this grace. They understood what the pain meant to push through.

My hero, Winston Churchill, faced failure on numerous public occasions during his career: He failed political races, was responsible for military blunders in World War I, was marginalized in Parliament between the wars, and lost battles as Prime Minister during World War II. Despite winning World War II, he was voted out of office. Did he stop? No he kept going and became Prime Minister again years later. His words carry me today.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

I am imaging the day when one of my daughters come to me full of some sort of worry. They will share their fear and it will be about losing a game, not making the cut, failing a test, or perhaps feeling rejected by a boy. I will hug them. I will tell them I understand some of their hurt. I will even cry with them. I will help pick them up and tell them to look up.

I will tell them about Winston Churchill. I will tell them about life’s marathon. I will tell them about my failures.I will share the Bible with them. I will tell them that it will be okay. I will tell them to never give up.

 

What has failure taught you in life?

Any favorite quotes or Bible verses that help you through failure?