Here’s to a Successful Failure

I was chatting with a Millennial the other day, the much-maligned generation that some say feel entitled or simply expect everything to just go their way. And when it doesn’t, it’s “not fair.”

Now, while you’ll see that sentiment a lot online, I actually know of several very hard-working M’s that demonstrate a lot of the driven qualities I possessed at that age. However, in my conversation the other day, I was encouraging a certain person to pursue their dream. Not adjusting your dream to increase your odds of doing something, but taking a few chances, risking enough that you could fail. And they would have nothing of it.

When I suggested that they pursue one of the career paths they were interested in, this 20-something said, “Oh, that probably won’t happen. I want to concentrate on the sure things that I know will happen.” Translation–I’ll settle for certainty, even if it means minimum wage from now until I retire.

Unacceptable.

My head almost exploded with thoughts Not just what came to mind regarding my philosophy on the topic, but also the experiences I’ve had over the years.  From the 50,000-foot level, you could think, “Boy, that Tim is one lucky guy! He is actually living his dream, doing what he wants to do, the way he wants to do it.”

I would agree, but with a caveat.

I made it to this level of my life thanks to one thing: failures. Things that didn’t happen, that didn’t turn out the way I wanted, or things that were going well that just blew up.

I remembered being asked to be the featured speaker at Canyon Park Junior High School a long time ago. I wanted to say something to these kids that would actually matter. So, I did an entire speech about failure and not being afraid to try for what you believe in. My own kids probably heard my Ken Griffey, Jr. analogy a million times while they were growing up. “You know that amazing catch he just made? Oh, he could have thought that there was no way he’d ever catch that ball as it almost made it over the fence, but he tried and he succeeded.  How many times before that did he try to catch a home run ball and miss it? Every single time. But eventually, trying succeeded.”

In my speech to the grads, I brought up some of the greatest failures in history, as well as their generation. Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney and others were major failures…until they succeeded. Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and so many others starred in horrible TV series, some that were canceled after only one episode. But they got back out there and kept going.

I can’t even begin to tell you about the many, many projects that I was involved with over the years, that I thought for sure would be my big success story. There was an audio tape tour of Edmonds that I recorded; an Inspector Gadget computer game, where I was a cheaper alternative to Don Adams who didn’t charge $1-million; project after project that I did with the hope this would be the big payoff, which never happened.

Truth be told, you can do anything you want in this world. You can achieve whatever it is you desire. What most of the Millennials (and really, everyone, for that matter) don’t realize is that the biggest obstacle in the way of you being hugely successful is one person: you.

I do a great variety of things, not for monetary gain, but because I believe they are positive contributions to this swirling rock.  And I know that, for every one of me, there’s another person strictly focused on the monetary gain that determines if they come out the winner.

Once you decide which side of that fence you’re going to reside on, the rest is easy. If you try something beyond your comfort zone and fail, you will grow and, you’ll have at least tried. I can’t believe I’m bringing this up again (for like the third time in the past couple of days) but I hear that what people think about most on their deathbed is not what they did, but what they didn’t do.

So, take a swing. Believe in yourself. If you fail, congratulations. You’ve just gained a valuable education without racking up any college debt as a result. Your biggest growth will occur once you’ve gotten past the fear of failure.

Get out there and fail at something, would ya?

Tim Hunter

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