Success is what we can make of the mess we have made of things

June 29
aren't my comments. They were spoken by T.S. Eliot, author of the some of the
most memorable poems in the 20th century.

quote appeared in the Boston Globe in honor of his graduation from Harvard 100
years ago. Despite his later success, Eliot was anything but a
model student. In fact, he racked up only three As to go along with eight Bs,
six Cs and one D. Those low marks, coupled with a spotty attendance record,
bought Eliot academic probation in 1906. Nice, T.S.

story doesn't surprise me one bit. For every overnight success story a la the
founders of Google and YouTube, there are exponentially more 'failures' such as
Alexander Graham Bell (who accidentally invented the telephone as he tried
building a more effective hearing aid), Edison (who said it took him 10,000
tries to invent electricity) and Buckminster Fuller who, at the age of 32, had
had enough of failure and was contemplating suicide. He decided to give life
one more shot, and went on to author 28 books, receive 25 patents and collect
47 honorary doctorates. Talk about comeback player of the year!

gets a bum rap in today's society. And, I see far too many people, young,
middle-aged and old, who are afraid to fail. So, instead, they choose the path
of least resistance, accept mediocrity and end up being miserable.

beautiful thing about entrepreneurship is that it forces one to confront
failure on a daily basis. Ed and I have failed countless times since starting
our company. Some have been minor. Some, as the Japanese executives at Sony
used to say, were 'epoch-making.'

and every failure is a tremendous learning experience if you're able to pick
yourself up, shake off the dust and try something just a little bit differently
the next time. Edison failed 9,999 times in his search for electricity. Talk
about OCD! And Fuller figured he'd hit a literal dead-end at mid-life. Look at
Harry S. Truman. He was a complete failure and destitute at the age of 40.

the Globe's editor put it, 'Life is messy and unpredictable.' The individuals
who recognize that and see failure as an opportunity are the ones who
eventually succeed. Sadly, we never hear about the vast majority of others who
give up.

here's a homage from one mediocre student to another. T.S.: I was never a fan
of your poems or your genre, but I sure respect your perseverance.

10 thoughts on “Success is what we can make of the mess we have made of things

  1. Since I’m no longer part of the inner circle at Y!, I can’t provide any perspective, Lunch. That said, there’s room for a Burger King, Avis or Pepsi in every industry, so I guess there’s a spot for a me-too in search and ad display as well.

  2. Yahoo seems to be grasping at straws and playing catch-up to everyone. They are even trying to take on the AP with its own style book! That’s a unique idea, and PR worthy, but shouldn’t it concentrate on being the best at a few things (search, chat, content, ads) instead of being a me too company on everything??

  3. I actually said the same thing when Yahoo decided to hire a new head of global PR a few years back. I knew it wasn’t the end of our relationship. It wasn’t quite the beginning of the end. But, it most certainly signaled the end of the beginning since the new PR guru had replaced the most senior person responsibe for hiring us. He fired us a few months later.

  4. Indeed. In reference to the British victory over Rommel at El Alamein Churchill said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

  5. Thanks Eric. But, as Carl ‘Union Jack’ Foster was so quick to point out when I last used that exact Churchill quote, it refers to success, not failure. He used those remarks to describe the British defeat of the Nazi’s in North Africa. Union Jack?

  6. Ahh yes, things go awry for even the smartest and the best. Failure should not be seen as a dead-end, but an ultimatum. And keeping in line with the quotes, Winston Churchill so eloquently once said in regards to failure that it’s “the end of the beginning.”

  7. A great quote from my favorite president, Tucker. Thanks so much. Here’s another, more obscure TR quote. After being warned at the age of 18 that he had a weak heart and should do far less exercising, TR told the doctor, ‘I’d rather lead a short, strenuous life than a long, sedentary one.’ That sort of thinking wouldn’t go over well with today’s couch potato set.

  8. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

  9. You hit on a great point, Lunch. Too many students stress far too much about their GPAs. We assume a graduate from a good school is intelligent. What we look for is a genuine passion for PR, thirst for knowledge and willingness to be a team player. A self-centered person with a 4.0 is useless to me. Give me a T.S. Eliot type who’s willing to take it to the next level any day of the week.

  10. I barely graduated with a 3.0 and it took me five years to get my degree (although, I did become a father while in college). Grades mean nothing to me at this point in life and it is certainly not the first thing I look for in a candidate Many will disagree with me, but I’ve hired some great ones following my gut. The insight about failure and dusting off its debris is welcomed, Rep. This post will be remembered often as I plan and chase my own future endeavors…