The lessons of Failure that lead to Success

When I was in L.A. at Fox Studios I was reminded of one thing.  Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame anybody for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents or the Government for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise  anybody for experiencing  poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have  been poor, and I  agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience.   Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticized only by fools.

What I feared most for myself was not poverty, but failure.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what makes up failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere ten years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. A series of exceptionally short-lived relationships had imploded, and I was jobless, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern the U.S without being homeless. The fears that my parents had for me, and that I had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be since represented a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope and not a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive.   And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.

Now you might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and  the fount of all invention and innovation. In it’s arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life was living in Germany  Though I was in the Military I volunteered my time by working at the African research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to speak against their governments. Visitors to our offices included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had left.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was then, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him back to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just had to give him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week,  I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

In every War, very day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or support power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard, and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International and in the Military than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilizes thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creäture on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathize.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to stay comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.  They can claim the President is the reason their lives are a failure, never seeing the collective reason why we are sliding into a rabbit hole for the fault lies not in the stars but in ourselves.      

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise,  enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we colluded with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

My  travels in the  military allowed me see the wonders if the universe.  Whether in Germany or Spain  …whether in Korea or China  whether in Montana or in NYC  you see the best that people have to offer.  How wonderful  it is though that no one has to wait a single moment to make the world a better place.   

Imagine if all the men and women who gave so much of themselves to this country didn’t have to be Homeless. Last year it was reported close to 250 thousand men and women who served were homeless.  

Imagine if we didn’t have to hear about stories a 5 year old child who was dying and the insurance company refused to pay anymore for his medicine because they said “It cost to much”.   Or the  Golden Gate  which was closed down because of repairs that cost to much.  

In 20 yrs will we be traveling on worse roads  Will water be clean …will China be the leading manufacturer of  Solar panel and will we be traded  for another hostage with companies American and foreign, that in many cases wish us anything but good?

The answers to these questions depends on a great many things I lived in Europe for 5 yrs  The infrastructure compared to ours. We’re moving along in the equivalent of a Ford Pinto  with bridges rotting and falling down, while other nations, our competitors in the global economy, are building efficient, high-speed, high-performance  platforms to power their 21st-century

We used to be smarter than this but  Washington all but gave up thinking. America’s infrastructure, education and people, once the finest in the world, has been neglected for decades.  We’ve become stupid about this.

Much of the nation’s rail is approaching the tail end of its useful life. If you’ve flown anywhere recently, you know what a nightmare that can be. To the extent that we have any  all, , often doing more harm than good as it serves the interests of politicians who are crazy for pork and not the real needs of the American public.

You can’t thrive as a nation while New Orléans is drowning, and Detroit is being beaten into oblivion decade after decade, and a bridge in Minneapolis is collapsing into the Mississippi River, and cities in upstate New York and the Rust Belt are rotting from lack of employment opportunities, and so on.

Imagine, instead, an America with rebuilt, healthy, dynamic metropolitan areas, and gleaming new port facilities, and networks of high-speed rail, an America with electric vehicles and a smart grid and energy generated by the power of the sun and wind and water and the ocean’s waves. Imagine if the children of today’s toddlers had access to world-class public schools all across the nation and a higher education system that is both first-rate and affordable.

Imagine if we set out seriously to do all this.

I have one last hope for everybody,  The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life.  At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for President.

So today, I wish you nothing better than similar friendships. Unless you meet them Facebook friends are not real friends nor following Movie Stars will make you part of their lives. Its like saying going to church makes you religious or standing in your garage makes you a car.   Tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:

“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”


They even made a show about Cowboy Fans in Texas. Its called the ‘Walking Dead’

When I travel I usually wear Armani or Ralph Lauren suits. Its just the way I want to look  in case I meet Anne Hathaway in her Catwoman Suit  but I digress…back to the issue.  


I am constantly perplexed every time I go to Texas by the Texas Trifecta: cowboy hat, big belt buckle, cowboy boots. I mean, on one hand I get it. I lived in Texas.   Big belt buckles are shiny, almost hypnotically so.  Cowboy hats can apparently hold 10 gallons of water. And, boots? Well, let’s just say “tennis-shoe scootin’ boogie” wouldn’t sound the same. Moreover, I understand that it’s fun to play dress-up, and also that if you are a farmer/rancher, this is the uniform. What I don’t get is why I see dudes (it’s almost always dudes) in compact cars wearing cowboy hats. I’m pretty sure most are either on their way to school or a white-collar office job. I also see people dressed like this at the grocery store, for no apparent reason. So, what’s up with the get-up?

You know how when you’re at the store, and you see a guy wearing a certain kind of athletic shoes and track pants or whatever, and you know that dude probably runs marathons or at least wants people to think he does? That is what Texan men are doing when they wear the get-up to H-E-B. It’s like a mating signal that’s not just a mating signal, because it’s also for dudes, and everybody knows there are no gays in Texas, most of all Texans, who now inexplicably support gay marriage.


The get-up says: I am a Texan, and I dare you to argue with me on point with the big-assed hat while I pass you going 55 mph in the right lane. It works well for picking up ladies at the honky-tonk, , but it also works for helping Texans maintain their connection to the  Texas heritage while they are driving what I  believe is the emasculating import scooter-car or participating in horribly shameful activities like buying food, or anything that isn’t roping cattle out on the range or wherever it is cattle get roped.


Of course, driving a sensible sedan or buying tomatoes isn’t actually going to make your balls fall off, but here in Texas, they seem to care less about facts and more about things that are not facts.


Fundamentally, it’s about the performance of a particular kind of Texanity, like most fashion choices associated with particular groups or cliques. But it’s also important to remember, and I think most do, that most of these kinds of fashion performances are rooted in practicality — those little cotton athletic shorts that popular teenaged girls have in fifty colors got started because they’re easy to wear when you’re cheer-leading and to mix-and-match with team colors.


Interestingly, however, the Texas get-up is one of the few fashion endeavors learned in childhood and adolescence that Texans continue to wear throughout their lives. Eventually, most people grow, literally or figuratively, out of their wide-legged Jnco’s or neon leg-warmers. Again, this is because there’s an actual reason cowboys wear cowboy gear. (Notably different from Cowboy gear, which you wear unless you want to get your ass kicked because Jesus, God, Cowboys, all live in Texas ….when are you going to get it together people?).  I mean they even made a show about  Cowboy Fans.   Its called the ‘Walking Dead’


In Texas–scratch that, in America, and I think France also because those people are a little weird about things–the romanticization of the cowboy begins practically at birth, and Texas is one of the few places left on earth where you might actually grow up to be a cowboy or meet one regularly.


Therefore, it’s acceptable to dress like a 6-year-old in Halloween garb even if you are 60 and gunning your Geo Storm down I-35 to pick up milk. Maybe, just maybe, someone will think you’re a real cowboy and reward you with sex or beer.

Also good on you for correctly and enthusiastically using the phrase “get-up”! Welcome to Texas! Next, try integrating into your vocabulary another sartorial descriptor, “drawrrn,” which is what Texans wear for underpants.)


I’m just afraid that if I say “I miss New York”  while I am down here for a day  someone is going to smash my car windows and steal the radio.   

How to be in the Diamond Club of Winners

Contingency plans are unnecessary. I am not making plans for failure because I am not planning to fail . Diamond mentally is very simple . Contingency PLANS ARE UNNECESSARY . You CANNOT LET ANYBODY STEAL YOUR DREAM . YOU ARE IN A BATTLE . AND THEY WANT TO STEAL IT ..they want to keep you where you are at. You have got to be willing to fight.

You need to remember , If you want to be understood by 2 % of the nation You will be misunderstood by the 98% . Some of you are already eliminated because you are worried by what other people think

But you see to be part of the 2 % you need to step out of the comfort zone, the decision has to be made that you are a diamond.
YOU wont look back , let up slow up or back away . Your past is forgotten , Your present is focused , Your future is secure . You are finished and done with low living sidewalk people , cheap excises and dwarf goals . You no longer need preeminence, position , promotion , promised or popularity . You don’t have to be praised regarded or awarded. You died to the self centered ego driven limp lifestyle . You live by faith , learn by submitting , labor by love , lead by example . Your dream is developed, Your decision is definite , your decision and desire determined, your pace is fast and set , your road is narrow , your way is tough. Your purpose is clear
YOU cannot be brought compromised detoured lured away , turned back deluded ,delayed or denied .You will not flinch in the face of sacrifice ; hesitate in the presence of the adversary; negotiate at the table of failure ; ponder in the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

You wont give up , shut up, let up, till you stayed up , paid up and stood up .
You must fight when others faint , go where others wont , give till you drop, teach and work till the task is finished . and when YOU lie exhausted on the playing field of the dreamers . The diamond club of winners wont have any trouble recognizing YOU as one of their own