We all fall down in our lives at one point or another. Some stay down; others get back up. Failure is such a common human experience that it is difficult to find a general observation about it that doesn’t sound trite, like something off a high-school locker room wall. “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” And on and on.

Despite all the truisms about failure, and despite it being universal, we still tend to ignore failure. We leave the disappointments off our resumes, and we overlook them in the lives of others.

How many people, watching Steve Jobs announce the iPhone, the latest hot product from computer giant Apple, paused to remember that he was once a notorious has-been? That in 1985 Jobs was forced out of the company he co-founded before blowing $100 million on NeXT, a start-up computer company that arrived stillborn (never-mind that the Operating System developed at NeXT was the platform for Apple’s current OSX)?

Not many… Because success eclipses failure. We think of George Lucas as the creator of Star Wars, not the guy who produced Howard the Duck. When we see Dustin Hoffman chatting with David Letterman, he is the star of The Graduate and Tootsie, not the star of Ishtar, one of the biggest bombs ever made.

Why? Because failure is painful. It’s impolite to dwell on it. You don’t shake Ross Perot’s hand and say, “Nice to meet you, sir. That presidential campaign of yours sure was a botch job.”

More later…

brian patrick cork

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