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Success and Failure

Who succeeds and who fails? The good news is that you get to define success for yourself, and you aren’t a failure until you say you are.   Even then you probably won’t be.  Maybe you just had some bad breaks.  Get up and try again.

Success to some students is a 4.0, ample praise, all the top prizes.  The dangers of perfectionism, however, come with these prizes.  You must practice humility, flexibility, generosity and humor, or the paralysis of perfectionism could creep in, ready to shrink your world. 

By all means pursue excellence.  Pursue excellence by working with others not in competition with them.

No one wins at everything.  In fact, for anyone to win, there has to be a definite end to the game.  James P. Carse, in his book Finite and Infinite games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility, makes a distinction between finite and infinite games.  Finite games have temporal boundaries — distinct beginnings and ends, rules of play, and obvious winners.  Finite games are played to be won.  Infinite games, on the other hand are played to keep the players playing, and the productivity ongoing.  Even though a lifetime is finite, life can be played as an infinite game.  

Few will remember in ten years what your grades were.  What will matter in the future is not your GPA, but the person you have become, the wisdom and understanding you have gained, and how it has prepared you for the infinite game of life.  In life played as an infinite game, the goal is not to amass wealth and acclaim. The goal is to keep the proverbial ball in play, to solve real problems, help other people, protect the environment, create things of lasting value, and love the people around you with whom you share your life. 

If you end up a CEO or a college president in the infinite game, more power to you.  Use your power to inspire others to their best work so a whole team is moving forward, not just an individual weighted down with prizes and possessions.

May you achieve excellence because you worked toward it with great heart.  Be always honest and kind to those around you. When honors are laid upon you, may you wear them with dignity.

Keep your sense of humor.  Laugh at yourself.    

People only fail when they cease to grow.  Keep growing.

“May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.”  ~ John O’Donohue

“When one door closes, another opens for us.  But we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”   ~ Alexander Graham Bell

“If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.”   ~ Mary Pickford

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”      ~ Winston Churchill

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”    ~ Pablo Picasso

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” ~ Henry Ford

“I'm very proud of my flops, as much as of my successes." ~  Francis Ford Coppola

“Of course there is no formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings. “  ~ Arthur Rubinstein

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

“Defeat is not the worst of failures.   Not to have tried is the true failure.” ~ George E. Woodberry

“If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it; every arrow that flies feels the attraction of earth.”   ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Not failure, but low aim, is crime.”  ~ James Russell Lowell

“Defeat never comes to any man until he admits it.”   ~ Josephus Daniels

“Nothing fails like success because we don't learn from it.  We learn only from failure.”   ~ Kenneth Boulding

“There is no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all.”  ~ Bob Dylan

“Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.”  ~ Malcolm Stevenson Forbes

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”  ~ Robert Francis Kennedy

“If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.” ~ Woody Allen

“Good people are good because they've come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.”  ~  William Saroyan

“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much.”   ~ Bessie Stanley

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try.  ~  Beverly Sills

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”  ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

References and Resources for further study:

Success Quotes & Failure Quotes