A friend of mine said to me recently, “Tim, it seems like every time I turn around you’re succeeding at something.” I don’t say this to toot my own horn. I say this because it is completely NOT true.
Truth be told, I fail a lot. Far more than most.
The majority of my ideas, my plans, and my dreams end up dying way before anybody knows about them. They usually die in my head. They sometimes die in my computer. And they occasionally die in the court of public opinion.
But, trust me: they die. Frequently.
I have had a few successes. But I have had a TON of failures. Businesses and books, auditions and adventures — I’ve come up short on all of them.
Despite the seemingly endless string of unfinished and unsuccessful projects, my goal has always been to live by this motto: I would much rather fail at greatness than succeed at mediocrity. (You can tweet that if you want.)
There is reason for hope
I take heart in the fact that:
- Michael Jordan missed more than half of the shots he took.
- Henry Ford went broke five times before finally starting Ford Motor Company.
- Thomas Edison went through thousands of prototypes before finally inventing the light bulb.
- Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade and lost every public election he entered until being elected Prime Minister of Great Britain at age 62.
- John Grisham was rejected by 16 agents and 12 publishers before getting his first book deal.
- Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven, and Babe Ruth failed countless times, too.
None of these people would have made history if they had been frozen by failure.
But what if my pessimism is right?
Unfortunately, the realist deep inside reminds me that for every Edison and Grisham and Spielberg story, there are a million other inventors and authors and directors working fast-food or retail because their idea didn’t stick.
Every creative, subconsciously, feels like their big idea should work, but that it probably won’t work. Taking the first step toward a dream feels like taking the first step toward your pessimism being proven right.
It’s fair to say these types of fears have derailed more scientific breakthroughs, revolutionary businesses, and great works of art than anything else in history.
How many best-selling books have never been written? How many blockbuster movies have never been made? How many vaccinations and antidotes and cures have never been found?
There’s something worse than failure
This month, I took a risk. I put a 10-year-old dream of mine out there for all to see, knowing full well that it could easily fail in spectacular fashion. I don’t want my dream to die, but I know it can’t possibly live if I never try.
So, I’m trying. Will it succeed? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fear of never knowing whether success was possible is far more intimidating than the prospect of failure.
I’m guessing you have a few hopes and dreams, too. You have a book to write, a business to start, a trip to take. You just haven’t done it yet for fear of the dream dying once you try.
Which of your dreams need to risk dying so that they can have a chance of succeeding? Share in the comments.
To find out more about Tim’s big project, check out “Don’t Blink: Tiny Towns, Funny Names” on Kickstarter, and consider supporting it.