Fear of Failure is Overrated

Fall and Fall Again

We’ve all failed at one point or another in our lives. If you’re like me, then you’ve failed a lot. In previous installments of the Daily Download, I talked about changing my major in college three times and how I tried to start several different blogs, none of which ever took off (this blog actually gets more daily traffic than the previous blogs did in months). I’ve submitted short stories and article pitches to other publications, and I’m massing a decently sized folder of rejection letters. Even more have not responded at all. Yet, I am not disheartened because I’m in good company. It’s from failure that the world’s greatest minds, titans of industry, thought provokers, and revolution leaders rise up on fiery wings of success. I’d like to talk about a few of them.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln is famous for the tale of him running after a customer to deliver two pennies of change from a store transaction and for being President of the United States. Little is discussed about his failures as a businessman and later as a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois. Also, he was defeated in five runs for legislative office including two attempts for senator in 1854 and 1858. In 1856, he lost the vice-presidency, but later he served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 to 1865.

J.K. Rowling

I’ve written about J. K. Rowling in a previous Daily Download. Rowling’s story about a boy wizard named Harry was rejected by twelve publishers before a small London publisher bought it. Now the Harry Potter franchise is worth $25B according to CNBC.

Thomas Edison

Edison is known for his invention of the modern light bulb, yet it took him over 1,000 attempts to get a working prototype. When asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” he responded, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps” according to the University of Kentucky.


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“Our Greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

I’ve collected rejection letters, and I receive nothing from more publishers. The first one hurt the worst. I submitted a short story to my alma mater, The Cincinnati Review, after shopping it around to some writer friends and getting several rounds of editing. Still, the editor, who had been a professor of mine, rejected the story. It wasn’t what they were looking for, he said. It stung. I thought I was a great writer. My writer friends and my non-writer friends told me it was great. One friend called it, a “terror” rather than a thriller. That story still sits in a folder waiting to be dusted off one day. Perhaps I’ll publish it here.

What about you? Do you confront adversity or shy away from it? I’m not asking if you have the fortitude of Lincoln after being facing multiple counts of rejection or Edison as he failed over 1,000 times on one single prototype. Rowling was on government welfare, living with her sister, and teaching when she shopped Harry Potter around to various publishers. The real question is do you have the drive to keep going? Do you have the grit? When you come up against a challenge, don’t try the same thing again, but do something different. Lincoln stopped trying for a lower office and ran for President of the United States. He won the presidency. Rowling submitted to a smaller publisher. She is now one of the most well known authors in the history of publishing. Edison tried a new design. He lit up the world. Do something different and keep going. If you fall down, pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and try again.


Thank you for reading this installment of Daily Download. Please like us on Twitter and Facebook. You can follow me, Ryan A. Ross, on Twitter @ryanthebossross. Don’t forget to check out the archives. There’s a lot of great stuff including Wednesday Writer’s Workshop and Friday Fiction Breakdown. If you have a topic you would like to see appear on the Daily Download, please email me.

The question of the day: Should I publish my short story here on the blog? It’s a psychological thriller/mystery. Please tweet me.

Until tomorrow.

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