Anyone who’s taken a class on American history would recognize the picture of President Truman holding a Chicago Tribune with the headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” With a low public approval rating going into the election and polling numbers which inaccurately predicted a Dewey victory – many of Truman’s supporters did not yet own telephones – winning re-election surely felt like a triumphant success. President Truman would have appreciated the quote by Truman Capote, “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
Success would not have been easy to predict from Truman’s beginning. He failed to get into to West Point due to his poor eyesight, dropped out of college, lost a government job, suffered rejection when the woman who would become his wife turned down his first proposal, lost his business during the recession of the early 1920s, and was not re-elected Judge of the Jackson County Court in Kansas. Ironically, it was after this re-election defeat and then working as a car salesman that he decided public service was a safer career bet than the private sector.
Failure opens our minds to explore other possibilities when what we believe is our first choice becomes unavailable to us and gives us an opportunity to renew our commitment to seeing an aspiration through. Sometimes failure will be driven by circumstance and sometime our own doing. Regardless the cause there’s only one good way to manage a failure – accept it, recognize it won’t be your last, and move forward adjusting your course in light of what you’ve learned. Failure will only get the best of us when we chose to do nothing in the face of its adversity.
In discussing this post I asked my writing partner, Bill, if he had any good suggestions for whom to highlight as an example of failure before success. He responded, “Oh that’s easy. Almost everyone.”