There is a Japanese proverb that says “Fall down seven times. Get up eight.” Think Tigger. Boing! This ability to come back…this resilience is one of the eight win factors Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske cite in their book The Winner’s Brain.
They depict a bouncy brain as one that “recovers from life’s challenges by dealing with shortcomings, misfires and failures whether they are self generated or brought on by circumstances beyond one’s control. Winner’s reframe failures so that they work to their advantage and recognize that when things don’t go according to plan, the journey isn’t necessarily over – and, in fact, failure is often a new opportunity in disguise.”
One strategy they suggest to aid in developing and strengthening this trait in yourself is to find a failure role model. Current culture and history is full of them:
- Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard.
- Thomas Edison tried more than 9,000 experiments before he created the first successful light bulb.
- Michael Jordon was cut from the high school basketball team.
- Albert Einstein had very poor grades in school and was thought to be mentally retarded.
- Steven Spielberg was placed in learning-disabled classes in high school then dropped out forever.
- John Grisham‘s first novel was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses.
- Abraham Lincoln had 12 major political failures before he was elected the 16th President of the United States of America.
These people demonstrate how true it is that the road to success is littered with pot holes. Think about your own life. I bet you can come up with some resilience role models you know personally.
About 9 months after my suicide attempt and resulting brain injury, I went into a yoga class and thought “Hey, I know that guy!” It was Charlie Engle. We life guarded together one summer in college, and he dated my room mate. I remember slinking around the pool one night with our faces partially submerged…just our eyeballs sticking up out of the water like an alligator being “pool iguanas” together in an altered state. We thought it was absolutely hysterical at the time. We began to get reacquainted and fill each other in on what had been going on for the last 25 years or so for each of us.
Turns out, Charlie had continued the party after college to go on to a life of drug and alcohol addiction. BUT, he went on to get clean and sober in 1992 and has since run across the Sahara Desert at the age of 44! That is 4,500 miles in 111 days. Unbelievable. That is the equivalent of two marathons a day. They made a documentary about it that plays on the movie channels on TV. He has also done some other pretty amazing things like run/bicycled across America and has given his support to and headed numerous local, national, and global charitable efforts. Wow!
To me, Charlie was still just Charlie. I thought, “if ‘just Charlie’ could turn it around and go on to not only live a ‘normal’ life, but to thrive and help others…maybe…just maybe, I can too.” It was the first time it occurred to me that it might actually be possible to clean up and make something of this huge mess I had made of my life. He was a tremendous inspiration to me. My failure role model in real life!
When you find yourself staring misfortune squarely in her ugly face, you have two choices. You can look back and focus on the regrets and the wrong turns that got you there. OR You can bounce back by taking a deep breath, focusing on the next right step, and take it. Here’s to being bouncy!