Today is the Academy Awards (aka the Oscars). It’s the moment where Hollywood crowns individuals for their achievements in film. Often, it’s the pinnacle of a person’s career, or what defines them. This got me thinking about the parallels entertainment has with tech (there are many). But today I’m reminded that it just takes one victory to erase all your past failures.
Failure sucks. But it’s a necessary step toward success. No one is successful right away. There are dozens, hundreds of failures along the way. Many times these failures are only apparent to the individuals. Every year at the Oscars there’s someone who comes out of “nowhere” to win the golden statue. To viewers, we’re excited to see this actor picked out of obscurity and into the limelight. From that moment on, they will always be known as Oscar winner [First and Last name]. But as viewers, we also don’t understand the struggle that person went through to get to that stage.
Same goes for entrepreneurs. We fail on a daily basis. Whether it’s a sales call, a marketing tactic, or the entire company going under, we fail. I wrote a post a while ago about “Your First Company Won’t Be Your Last.” In it, I gave examples of famous entrepreneurs that had started several unknown companies before their major success. We see someone’s current and biggest success and think very highly of them. But we don’t see the years of rejection and failure it took to get to that level.
A fictional example I like to refer back to from time-to-time is Toby Ziegler from the West Wing. Toby was the Director White House Communications for Jed Bartlett’s presidency. He was also an integral part of President Bartlett’s two presidential campaigns. By all definitions of the word, he was a success. Yet, when we look back at Toby’s resume before Jed Bartlett, he was…a failure.
Toby Ziegler’s fictional resume includes work on a city council campaign, two Congressional races, a Senatorial, and gubernatorial race. All resulting in defeat. He was a “loser.” But it just took one victory to change all of that. The 1998 Presidential Election was his first win on a campaign and that’s how people remember him. (Yes, I know it’s fiction, but the lesson still applies.)
Failure sucks, but it’s going to happen. You have to fight through it. The difference between people who are “successes” and those who have failed is that they didn’t give up. They fought through the shit that others couldn’t. You’re closer to success than you think. As Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Because it just takes one victory to change the perception of all your past failures.