Saturday, April 26, 2014

Success and Failure

Life has its share of painful situations, but one of the worst is having to stand by and watch someone you know - perhaps someone you have deep feelings for - just fail.  It's even worse if you possess the specific lifeline that could have pulled them in, or pulled them through, but they just didn't reach out or ask for it, for any number of reasons. 

The reason(s) for their failure to ask for help is both significant and not.  It could be lack of self-esteem, pride, lack of initiative, dislike of you, or a hundred other things.  Of course, if one knows what a person's particular mental roadblock is, that makes it much easier to devise a remedy or countermeasure. But key to their chances for success or at least for avoiding failure is they have to want it. They must have enough energy or drive to reach just one more inch or take one more step in the right direction. Even a physician is - in the end - just another counselor; he can only advise you how to improve your health. The rest is up to you.

And so, all you can do is just stand there, helpless to assist, because they won't ask for it, and you certainly can't make them do it.

This is just so agonizing and frustrating when the person in question is young, with hopefully their whole life ahead of them. 

I think it's safe to say that as adolescents, we all shared some similar traits and attitudes. We thought we knew more than we did, we were arrogant at times, we thought we were indestructible. We thought we had all the time in the world to attend to those things we didn't like but knew we had to deal with eventually, so we put them off. We didn't always listen to our parents or elders. Pretty common stuff.

A word or two about success, or at least my definition of it.  My heroes were never men like Donald Trump. It was never my goal in life to make as much money as I possibly could or acquire as much material wealth and toys as possible. I always understood the notion of enough.  At some point, enough is enough. It was never a question of motivation or drive - I always had plenty of that. I never really struggled with starting or finishing projects on time or fulfilling obligations.  I never had any strong, focused goals other than being an upstanding man with integrity and achieving some mastery in music. And I accomplished those things. Beyond that, I was never driven to achieve any level of wealth or to be esteemed as a big wheel.

My personal keys to success in life were basically 1) understanding that nothing of value comes without some effort and 2) knowing when to take advantage of opportunities when they appeared.  As a youth, I was passionate about music, and it was easy to see that it could yield both money and notoriety, and that it wasn't rocket science; it just required some dedicated practice. And shortly after I was married, I was given a ground floor opportunity to learn a trade. In retrospect, the funny thing is that given my attitude at that time, I could have very easily blown-off the opportunity, thinking I was going to land a much easier kind of job. "Let's see…hot, dirty and sweaty vs cool, dry and clean." But luckily, I was logical and practical enough to recognize a good opportunity when it happened. Another important element in my success is that I also had some dedicated, senior mentors that saw potential in me and were willing to invest their time with me as a novice.  The rest, as they say, is history. Forty years later, I'm happily retired as a skilled machinist.

So, I'm just saying that success (or at least avoidance of failure) doesn't have to be that difficult, especially if there are people around you willing to lend assistance.  But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what the nature of the person's failure is - academic, substance abuse, criminal record, health-related - they have to at least want to help themselves.  Until they come to that realization or decision, there isn't much you can do for them.

And of course, failure can be a form of success, if you learn from it.

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