Failure is a prerequisite for getting what you want, and often it puts us in the direction to get what we actually need. It gave Steve Jobs a mission, Daymond John a vision, and every entrepreneur you know a groundedness not achievable otherwise. To paraphrase Brené Brown, the only guarantee you have when you step in the arena is that you will get your butt kicked.
So when one of the most successful women in the world talks about her failures, it is wise to listen.
Oprah talks in the new Vanity Fair about her biggest failure and how she rose from it. In short, her 1998 big-budget movie Beloved was set to be her splash into Hollywood. Her agent called her the day after opening night and told her it was already a flop. She was devastated.
Two decades later, she is even more powerful than before. How does that happen? There are three telling quotes:
- Gratitude: "That's when the gratitude practice became really strong for me, because it's hard to remain sad if you're focused on what you have instead of what you don't have."
There are volumes of anecdotal and scientific evidence showing that gratitude for what you currently have leads to your getting more of what you want. Your brain focuses on what you focus on, so concentrating on what's missing will only show you what you lack, not the new opportunities available.
- Service: "It taught me to never again--never again, ever--put all of your hopes, expectations, eggs in the basket of box office. Do the work as an offering, and then whatever happens, happens."
Your job is to create something that the world needs -- and that's it. Profitability comes from prioritizing your employees and your customers, not from prioritizing profitability. Market share comes from creating a service of value, not from focusing on market share. In Oprah's case, she gives and gives, and her customers choose to give their financial, emotional, and mental support in return.
- Presence: "There's not a human being alive who doesn't want--in any conversation, encounter, experience with another human being--to feel like they matter. And you can resolve any issue if you could just get to what it is that they want--they want to be heard. And they want to know that what they said to you meant something. Most people go their entire lives and nobody ever really wants the answer to 'How are you? Tell me about yourself.'"
It is ridiculously easy to depersonalize people because of your goals: networking with someone just to get something out of it, manipulating customers to reach a new milestone, or simply not taking the time to take care of the people who gave you success in the first place. In a beautiful exchange, photographer Annie Leibovitz apologies to Oprah for keeping her away from the Vanity Fair journalist. "I go, 'I'm not worried about Jonathan. Because I can only concentrate on being here with you right now. And then when I'm with Jonathan, I will be with Jonathan and I won't be thinking about you!' She let out a big laugh and, as she was walking away, said, 'I have learned that being-fully-present thing. I am 1,000 percent fully present.'"
Gratitude, service, and presence can bring you to your goals -- and help you overcome the many failures it will take to get there.