Failure Is Inevitable


Joan Jett in Union Square
Joan Jett in Union Square, NYC, 2010 (image courtesy of David Shankbone)

Last night I watched one of my heroes, Joan Jett, speak and perform on the show The Talk. I’ve heard her so many times but I never get tired of hearing her tell her story.

Right before her song “I love Rock and Roll” became a hit in the early 1980s, she was rejected by many major and minor record labels. When asked about how she handled the rejection, she responded, “So I just started my own record label.” She said this as matter-of-fact as one might say when they spill something, “So I got a paper towel and picked it up.” When the audience applauded her for this she smiled and shrugged adding, “Well, there wasn’t any other choice.”

Sure there was. There were a lot of other choices she could have made, such as crying on the couch, stuffing her sorrows down with a bag of potato chips and telling everyone within an earshot about how unfair life is. This is the choice (or variations thereof) that people make every day when they give up on their dreams.

But people who are determined to “make a dent in the universe” don’t make the latter choice. They might consider it for a fleeting moment (we’re all human). They understand, though, that anything worth pursuing involves the strong possibility of a significant “face-plant” failure, and usually with plenty of people around to watch, laugh, and say, “I told you so”.

Failure IS an option. In fact, it’s inevitable if you’re pursuing anything worth pursuing. If you’re not content with your dreams being a footnote in the timeline of your life, what is NOT an option is giving up.

Every time I hear Joan Jett speak or watch her play her music, I am reminded of this and summon the courage to keep moving along my own path. I’m looking forward to a few face-plants in 2014 but sometimes there really isn’t any other choice.

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