Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Building Success from Failure

"If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength, but wisdom brings success," Ecclesiastes 10:10. 

Surrounded by those who go after their dreams, no matter how much adversity is faced along the way; I thank God for where I am in my life. I thank Him for hope, I thank Him for grace, and I thank Him for mercy. I choose to focus on the good things that He has afforded to me rather than dwell on the negative distractions. Isn’t it a good thing to thank God along the way to where you ultimately want to be?

As we celebrate Father’s Day this month, I thank God for a father who did what he knew he could do rather than succumb to what society says he can’t. I thank God for men in my life who are pillars of strength, shunning the image of a black man who’s weak, compromising, and prison-prone. Isn’t it a good thing to thank God for who is in your life now along the way to embracing those who will eventually will be there?

Failure comes in many different forms and it’s meaning varies depending upon whom you may ask. For some, it is in a relationship that doesn't work out, for others it may be in a career path where you can't hold a job, yet let us consider that in God you can’t go wrong. It all depends on how you look at the situation, are you looking through rose-colored lenses or the death-defying shades of negativity? Things may not always go your way, but consider that it is going the way it’s supposed to. What God has for you is for you, and as long as you make Him the head of your life, you’ll never fail unless you stop trying to succeed.

In this issue, Renarda Williams presents an interview with author/talk show host Tavis Smiley about his new book, Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure. Insightful words from a man whose failure provided stepping stones to where he is today.


Tavis Smiley on Building Success from Failure
By Renarda Williams

In today's society, no one is exempt from setbacks and failures — whether he or she is a renowned (or not so renowned), clergy, educator, attorney, physician, political figure, or scientist. Everyone has experienced some type of failure in their lives. And they had to start all over to succeed and achieve lifetime goals.

Tavis Smiley — a successful business owner, notable philanthropist, host of his own national and radio programs — is no exception. Who would ever believe Smiley experienced setbacks such as: being fired, arrested, and turning down a major television opportunity and risking his future in broadcasting. Well, he did ... and all of these — and more — describes what Smiley faced during his “success scars.”

Smiley shares his "success scars," and how he overcame them, in Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure (Smiley Books, 2011). Smiley has created a "remarkable" blueprint, with Fail Up, to help people overcome failure — by learning from disappointments, setbacks, ... — in order to achieve success in life.

Here are some of Tavis’ 20: Quotes from Fail Up (courtesy of Smiley Books)

Father Knows Best: Even when things aren’t equal, if it’s meant for you to receive God’s grace, you’re going to get it.

Get Ready to Be Ready: The truth of life is that it isn’t always up, but it’s not always down either. Life, by definition, is a series of ups and downs. It really boils down to high-quality choices. The challenge is making the right choice…

Remain Civilized Even When You’re Justified: When we conduct ourselves with dignity, we walk through the world with an inviolable sense of respect that invites emulation. Respect for others means we commit to making sacrifices.

Before Honor Comes Humility: If arrogance is the disease, then humility is the cure. If we want to create a balance where our passions don’t elicit accusations of arrogance, then we must strive for abundant doses of humility.

Cheaters Never Win: You can correct and even reprimand somebody, but at the same time, you can affirm that person. If you are in a position of power, you can also offer a second chance.

Don’t Do Me No Favors: Make sure you always give before you get. Be it in your personal or business life, reciprocity is sweeter when the exchange of services, favors, or goods is mutual.

Due to Smiley's busy schedule, he was not available for a telephone interview with Straight Up. The following is a list of questions submitted by Straight Up, and answers by Smiley in a news release offered by his Smiley Books publicist.

RW: What influenced you to explore that failure can be good for us in Fail Up?

SMILEY: When I turned 40, I realized a crisis point in my life; I didn't believe I would ever succeed at all the things I wanted to do. The fact is that it's true — and that's a beautiful thing. As Samuel Beckett put it, 'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.' This brilliant philosophy pulled together what I then understood as an inherent truth: Failure is inevitable. How we respond to failure is the key.

Looking back at my life, I, like many who have succeeded in spite of failure, have achieved what I have because I took life's setbacks and turned them into steps forward. My decision to share what were at times embarrassing public and private shortcomings wasn't easy. The reality, though, is that we all struggle and we all want to succeed. Not sharing this most crucial lesson of success — that it begins by turning failures into 'fail up' opportunities — would be far worse than any blemishes and mishaps I have suffered.

RW: What personal “fail up” do you think will surprise readers?

SMILEY: I can say for sure that some of my earlier indiscretions and mistakes might have some folks shaking their head. Yes, even Tavis Smiley has had run-ins with the law. The section where I find out firsthand what writing bad checks can do to a person, I think, will both surprise and, hopefully, scare some young folks straight.

The other fail up moment I think people will come away surprised by is when I delve into a personal indiscretion I committed while in a relationship, which I detail later in the book. Like I said, I’m not one for letting all my dirty laundry air for just anyone to see, but this situation was very real, personal reminder of how one’s professional life can be impacted by the wrong things said, at the wrong time, to the wrong people in your private life. I learned the lesson the hard way: Loose lips really do sink ships.

RW: How is Fail Up different from your memoir What I Know For Sure, and your previous books?

SMILEY: There’re a lot of similarities between Fail Up and my memoir. But they are, at their core, very different books. My memoir was the retelling of important segments of my life. It was a chance to share my story with my fans and supporters. But like most memories it was a one-way street.

Fail Up, on the other hand, is more of a conversation. Yes, my life and experiences are at the center of the message that adversity can become an asset if you approach it correctly. But Fail Up pulls from the challenges and successes of many others. Many of them are personal heroes of mine. Others are people in the spotlight, whether in sports or politics. I also share the story of everyday folk experiencing a real teachable moment. Through all these treads, Fail Up weaves together a powerful, crucial message that challenges readers to become agents of change in their own lives — by daring to change their minds.

RW: How important it is for young people to experience the opportunity to “fail up?”

SMILEY: Kids can do some pretty dumb things—I know I did—but it doesn’t mean mistakes should become life sentences. With the right guidance and compassion, a young person’s shortcomings can become a valuable moment of maturation. It’s important for adults to remember they, too, can, allow a young person to ‘fail up’ simply by taking the opportunity to help that young person become a better person for their failure, rather than beating them down or branding them for life.

RW: What do you hope Fail Up will do to help Americans who struggling to find employment during these tough economic times?

SMILEY: Let me be clear up front: too many Americans today are suffering through no fault of their own. Despite some encouraging signs that the worst is behind us, many parts of America —not least of which is the African American community, which continues to lag behind in employment—don’t feel like things are getting better. In face of this adversity, we have a choice: give in or grab hold.

My hope is that Fail Up will motivate people through powerful examples, helping them to focus on what’s possible, even in these challenging times.

RW: You mention the importance of “faith” throughout Fail Up. Do you believe God wants everyone to fail up?

SMILEY: Absolutely. As human beings, cracked vessels that we are…only through failure are we able to realize how human we are and to see the path that God has laid before us. We all fail at points in our lives and think that we’ve got things figured out better than God, whether it’s in our careers, in our personal lives, or even in what we think we want to major in college. But believe me, what God has in store for us cannot be avoided. Failing up is, in many ways, the process of realigning ourselves with the path that we were meant to be on all along —we just got lost along the way.

That path is different for everyone, but each of us has tremendous potential in what the Lord has called us to do. I am blessed every day that God has called me to do what I do, but there is also an inherent responsibility. In that way it doesn’t matter if God is calling you to be President of the United States or president of the local PTA, your gifts are suited to make you the best at what you are, and in the process be the best for those around you.

Tavis Smiley hosts the late-night talk show, Tavis Smiley on PBS, The Tavis Smiley Show distributed by Public Radio International (PRI), and is the co-host of Smiley & West on (PRI). He is the first American to simultaneously host signature talk shows on both public television and public radio.

Smiley has authored 14 books, including the book he edited, Covenant with Black America, which became the first nonfiction book by a Black-owned publisher to reach #1 on The New York Times bestseller list.

He is also the presenter and creative force behind America I AM: The African American Imprint—an unprecedented traveling museum exhibition celebrating the extraordinary impact of African American contributions to our nation and to the world. In 2009, TIME magazine named him to their list of The World’s 100 Most Influential People. This year, 2011, marks his 20th year in broadcasting.
Thank you for reading and remember, you never fail unless you stop trying to succeed. Don't be afraid to get up and try again.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, of love, and of a sound mind," 2 Timothy 1:7.

Until next time,

May God continue to bless you!

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