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Image your way through adversity, frustration, and failure
posted by admin on 06/10/06

You cannot succeed until you feel free to fail, and imagining future success does more than anything else to set you free.

Sometimes in the darkness of adversity, frustration, and failure, we can only see light at the end of the tunnel with a vivid, courageous imagination. The University of Notre Dame owes its existence when others imagination of one man who saw through adversity when others could not. Father Edward Orin and the Catholic Congregation of Holy Cross, which had originally established educational institutions in France following the French Revolution, dreamed of extending their mission to the people whose love of liberty had inspired the French quest for freedom. Father Orin and seven Holy Cross brothers arrived in Indiana in 1842 to begin building the University Of Notre Dame. Starting in a snow-covered log cabin originally occupied by fur traders, the group slowly began to make their dream a reality on a 640-acre parcel of donated land.

 One adversity followed another. A  cholera epidemic killed many in the 1850s. Then, when the Civil war broke out in the 1860s, many of the sisters, priests, and brothers went off to work for the Union cause. Father Sorin dispatched seven priests from his already small faculty to serve as battlefield chaplains, and he himself later served at Gettysburg, giving absolution to Union troops just before they marched into one of history’s bloodiest battles.

 Father Sorin and his colleagues had managed to construct a number of major buildings, including space for colleges of liberal arts, science, and law, by the late 1870s. then, one night in April of 1879, the work of nearly forty years went up in smoke as a raging fire wiped out all the university’s major buildings, save its stone church. In the aftermath, Father Sorin gathered his despondent colleagues and students in the church for mass. “The fire is really my fault,”he said. “I came here as a young man and dreamed of building a great university in honor of Our Lady. But I built it too small, and she had to burn it to the ground to make that point. So, tomorrow, as soon as the bricks cool, we will rebuild it, bigger and better than ever.” Brick by glorious brick, Father Sorin and those who followed in his footsteps built Notre Dame into the grand American institution we see today.

 Imaginative thinkers often suffer anxiety, frustration, and even failure, setbacks that can ensnare even the most determined thinkers and eventually quench every creative fire. Trapped in the jaws of defeat and seeing no way out, imagination may stagger and die. To escape, it must somehow see beyond the snare. That, in itself, requires imagination, as Father Sorin demonstrated in the aftermath of the Notre Dame fire. Just as he imagined his way through a crisis that might have stopped a less determined soul, we, too, must force ourselves to see beyond immediate setbacks and visualize future success.

 Winning isn’t everything, and even winners carry scars. Their wounds remind them of losses incurred along the road to success. Indeed, failure happens more often than success on creativity’s path. Most of Thomas Edison’s 1,093 patents, for example, involved inventions that proved utterly worthless, but he never let them stall his quest to innovate. As Edition proved, even the most creative minds can fail a dozen times before they succeed just once.

Fred Smith, creator of Federal Express, received a “C” on a college economics paper he wrote describing his idea for a nationwide distribution system. Lou Holtz, Notre Dame’s enormously successful and creative college football coach in the 1980s, lasted only eight months as coach of the New York Jets. Walt Disney was fired for incompetence. Leo Tosltoy flunked out of school. Abraham Lincoln began serving in the Blackhawk War as a Captain and ended up as a lowly private. Albert Einstein’s professors at the University of Bern rejected his doctoral dissertation on the special theory of relativity. Thomas Edition’s teachers thought he was stupid, and Winston Churchill’s considered him a “slow learner.”

 You cannot succeed until you feel free to fail, and imagining future success does more than anything  else to set you free. It treats adversity, frustration, and failure as growth opportunities. Soon after his failed 1952 attempt to climb Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hilary pointed to a picture of the treacherous mountain and said, “Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I’ll beat you the next time because you’ve grown all you’re going to grow, but I’m still growing. “One year later Hillary stood on top of Everest basking in the bright sunshine of success.

 Georgia Tech played UCLA in the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1929. Roy Regals grabbed a fumbled ball, ran across field to avoid being tackled, and turned toward the goal 60 yards away the wrong way. Fortunately for Regals, his own teammate tackled him just shy of the opposing goal line. During half time, Regals sat in a dark corner of the locker room far away from his teammates. Not a player or coach said a word. Everyone kept Regals’s failure in mind, especially Regals himself. Then head coach Nibbs Price stood and said, “The team that started the first half will start the second.” Regals responded from his dark corner, “No coach. I can’t do it. I’m too ashamed.” He could not imagine even showing his face in the stadium, let alone playing on the filed. “Regals,” Nibbs said, “get back in the game. It’s only half over.” Regals did just that. People called him “Wrong Way Regals” for the rest of his life, but he finished the game, something only Coach Nibbs imagined possible.

 For those engage in a creative task, such as building a winning team, imagination remains the most effective conqueror of adversity, frustration, and failure.

 By Charles W. Mc Coy, Jr.  author of the book : "Why didn't I think of That?"


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