In some previous posts, I have pointed out that if you have the wrong model, you won’t get the results you are wanting. I can’t completely adjust your models of success in a single blog post, but let me use some examples of what I mean.
Thomas Edison, Wolfgang Mozart, and Babe Ruth are often used as examples of success that we should learn from. I agree that they are. However, most of the time, what others are using them as examples of are NOT what we should be learning from them.
Let’s start with Thomas Edison. We are told to emulate him for his persistence as the inventor of the lightbulb. There’s only one problem with this (well, two actually.) Edison did NOT invent the lightbulb. He worked to make it more efficient and last longer.
Additionally, he did not try 10,000 times, trying to find something that worked. He had a shop where his employees experimented and tried things until they found the right combination… at his prodding.
Their goal was to find something that lasted more than the 13.5 hours that Edison’s original attempt at lightbulbs lasted. The bamboo filament they found lasted 1200 hours.
Edison was a success, but not because of the reasons usually given. (By the way, most of the misconceptions we have of him on this and similar acheivements of his is because he was a great self-promoter who personailzed (i.e. took the credit for) the discoveries of the teams he had assembled.)
Wolfgang Mozart is another who is held up as a success to emulate. Sometimes people dismiss Mozart as a genius – well beyond us – and, thus, no sense even trying to learn from him. Let’s take a look and see if there is anything for us to learn from Mozart.
Mozart was musically gifted, yes. But his father (a highly competent musician and composer himself) recognized and nurtured the gift. Mozart heard the music in his head and played variations in his mind until it all fit the way he sensed it should be. Then he wrote it down for musicians to play so that others could hear what he had first heard in his mind.
Mozart was a musical genius, but he worked just as hard as we do in the areas of our giftings. And like any master, he made it look easy. Worse for him was the boredom of having to transcribe all the stuff in his head onto paper (a long, boring task that couldn’t be outsourced.) Today, composers have computers and software to help with that ardous task.
The next time your efforts require discipline and effort in order to maximize your gifting/talent, remember Mozart.
Then there is Babe Ruth. Ruth is well known as the “Home Run King”… even after his record was finally broken. Some historians suggest that if all things were equalized to current rules and field dimensions, “The Babe” would still be on top. Even without that he is still on the top ten list of heroes in the United States.
But his homerun prowess had a price. You may have also heard that he struck out a lot. It’s true. He had 714 home runs and 1330 strike-outs. Almost twice the strike-outs as homers. He went to bat 8,399 times. He had good seasons and bad seasons. He got traded for poor performance.
The point I want to make is that he lived with a lot of “failures”, yet he kept hard at it. He earned his fame. He was a success because he took his natural talent and developed it. He took calculated risks and persisted until he won his way through… even when there were set-backs and strikeouts.
We would do well to keep that in mind when setbacks and failures find us. We can be too careful. We can be so careful that we don’t attempt anything… and fail from lack of attempt.
Failure is not the enemy. Inaction and paralysis are the enemy. Learn from these… but learn the right lessons, not the lessons of the “common wisdom”. Above all, persist.
What about you? What lessons have you learned on your journey to success?