I recently re-watched The Social Network, the highly touted movie about the origins of Facebook. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the movie starts out with Mark Zuckerberg having a drink with his girlfriend. After a heated exchange (which in my opinion was Mark’s fault) his girlfriend Erica broke up with him. Heartbroken and angry, he ran to his room and created www.facemash.com, the predecessor of Facebook. Later in the movie after Facebook had early success, Mark runs into Erica again, and again she spurns him. This motivates Mark to expand Facebook and eventually it becomes the social media behemoth that it is today.
However, this post isn’t about an angry nerd who seeks revenge on his ex girlfriend by becoming uber successful. I used this caveat as a prime example of how failure, rejection, and suffering breeds genius.
Everyone at one time in their life has had setbacks, failures, and storms. Some involve romantic relationships. Others involve your career. I don’t know why, but there’s something about the dark side of human nature that brings out the best of it. Pain is like a refiner’s fire that welds together our broken character and optimizes us for success. However, in order to take advantage of this great opportunity, we must do the following three things:
Let Go of the Past and Channel Your Energy
When we look at failures in our personal and professional lives, many people rewind and reflect on what they did wrong. Some people criticize themselves, some blame others, and others blame fate. However, doing this holds you captive. If you continue to hold on to blame and hurt, your life will not progress at all. So first, you must forgive yourself, all parties involved, and even GOD (if you’re really that cynical). Pent up anger festers and destroys you physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, if given the proper outlet, this psychic energy can fuel you to achieve things beyond your wildest dreams. To be honest, there is nothing wrong with replaying the negative event in your mind. If you use it to push you toward an objective, then this can be a very powerful motivating force. However, if you associate any negativity with the event (blame, malice, etc…), it can be detrimental to your well-being.
Identify an Opportunity
Identifying an opportunity gives you a direction in which to release your frustrations. As people, we have a tendency to be complacent when things are going well. However, rejection, disappointment, and failure riles us up! We become edgy and anxious. Stress is actually a good thing, if released. By identifying an opportunity (i.e. a business you always wanted to start, weight loss goal, or going back to school), stress will push you toward that goal. Remember, diamonds can only be created through pressure and duress.
As you push on toward your goal, the duress and stress you were under will eventually start to pass. However, never forget the circumstances you were under, and how you overcame them. Never forgetting cultivates gratitude, humility, and self confidence. Remembering your worst times helps you deeply appreciate your best ones. Remembering your down times helps you recognize the uncertainty of our existence, and helps you truly appreciate the present moment. Never forgetting doesn’t allow you to become arrogant or self absorbed.
General George S Patton once said, “I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits the bottom.” Failure is inextricably intertwined with the story of success. No person who has ever achieved anything worthwhile has ever done so without a failure or setback. Success cannot exist without failure, so if you are going through any turmoil in your personal or professional life, merely look at it as an indicator of your eventual victory.