Failure and Success

3 Feb


Failure and Success

By L. Stewart Marsden

My dad used to tell a joke about a father who had twin sons. In all ways they were indistinguishable, except in their outlooks on life. One was a die-hard pessimist. It didn’t matter what was going on, that son always expected the worse. The other was the extreme opposite, and believed that the sun’ll come out tomorrow, regardless.

Those traits nearly drove their father mad until he struck upon an idea to cure each of his sons of their extreme postures.

On their birthday, he told them to go out to the barn and see what their birthday presents were.

In one of the barn stalls was a magnificent stallion — an animal of rare beauty and strength. Above that stall was the name of his pessimistic son. When the son discovered his gift, he immediately began to moan and complain about the inevitability of an accident or even death when he took the steed out for a ride.

In the other stall was a ceiling-high pile of horse manure. The optimist son immediately grabbed a pitch fork and began slinging the manure away.

“All this shit— there’s got to be a horse in here somewhere!”

My dad also always told me, be happy and content in whatever you do. If you are an engineer, be the best damn engineer there is! If you collect garbage, be the best damn garbage collector there is.

The Problems with Dreams

In Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical, South Pacific, the character Bloody Mary sings the song Happy Talk, when the young lieutenant and her daughter meet and fall in love. In the lyrics is the line, You got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?

Few discover or even follow their dream. Even if they do discover what they truly care to do, failure dissuades them. They end up, sadly, doing something else. Making things do in life. And at the end of their lives, look back and wonder, what if?

Our McDonald’s culture has conditioned us for instant gratification. We want it now. Tap in the pin number, get the cash. I’m guilty of that. And guilty of being dissuaded from my dreams, as well. Nothing good comes of that, I can assure you.

Statistics, schmastistics

Did you know the great Babe Ruth had 714 home runs in his career, but also 1330 strike outs at bat?

Did you know one of the all-time greats in basketball, Michael Jordan, didn’t make every basket nor win every game? He says, I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. Read more at ( He even failed when he tried to play professional baseball, and in his last come-back in the NBA.

Thomas Alva Edison said of his own work, I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

It’s redundant, but not trite. Ask any of the team members of either the Denver Broncos or the Carolina Panthers about success and failure and I’ll bet you nearly to a man, each will concur they have learned as much or more from their attempts that have failed, than their successes.

Whatever passion or vocation you have set your mind to, failure will be part of the ratio. A good salesman who receives a rejection replies, “That’s one less ‘no’ I have to face before I get a ‘yes.’ A writer, trying to find a literary agent or publisher says, ‘that’s one less rejection before my work is accepted.’

Pie in the sky? Pollyannish? Unrealistic?

I guess that depends on how big a horse is in your pile of shit.


Copyright © Lawrence S. Marsden, 3 February, 2016

3 Responses to “Failure and Success”

  1. busymindthinking February 3, 2016 at 1:49 am #

    The attempt is a success for certain, because there’s always some lesson to be learned from it. Win/win no matter what. Great post!

    • skipmars February 3, 2016 at 1:54 am #

      I agree. Sometimes the learning curve is steep on this truth.

      • busymindthinking February 3, 2016 at 1:58 am #

        It is indeed, and well worth the recognition as cited in your post, we need to acknowledge the success in the attempt.

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