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  • Writer's pictureGiacomino Nicolazzo

The Path To Success...


December 2021

“When we meet or hear of someone who’s become successful...very successful,” I said to the people sitting in front of me at one of the seminars I used to teach many years ago, “we have this tendency to believe their success was a foregone conclusion...that they are all geniuses and destined to become what they’ve become. But if you would do what I have done...take the time to dig a bit deeper into their lives and their histories, you would find that is not the case. In most cases you would find it is the exact opposite.”

I had the distinct privilege of being able to stand in front of literally thousands of people for almost a dozen years and speak my mind, expressing my positivity and optimism to them. If I was successful in any way, it was in getting them to think about their own lives…to see themselves from a slightly different perspective.

“You would find that these people had many failures,” I would continue. “Some really big ones! But the common thread I found among them all was that they were undeterred by failing. They weren’t happy about it at the time, I’m sure...who would be? But the thought of quitting the pursuit of their dreams never crossed their minds!”

I started one particular seminar with a huge photograph of Steve Jobs on the screen behind me...

“This guy started out his illustrious career by figuring out a way to hack into land telephone lines to be able to make free long distance calls. He was rather successful at it too...until they caught him!”

One of the main points of my seminars was to impart in my students a simple truism that all successful people understand...most successful people have no idea how they are going to achieve their goals when they first start out, they just know they will! They also learn very quickly that their mistakes and failures are as essential if not the most important part of their success.

The next photograph that appeared behind me was of Bob Dylan...

“A long time ago this guy’s name was Robert Zimmerman. He had an obsession with music...American folk music. Woody Guthrie was his hero. His very first band was called the Golden Chords. They entered a high-school talent competition one year and came in last...dead last! The first-place winner was a tap dancing act.”

You see, behind every great success story is usually an embarrassing first effort, a stumble, a setback or a radical change of direction. It’s these first clumsy steps on the road to fame and fortune that fascinated me so much.

The next photo was of Thomas Edison...

“This guy was both hearing and speech impaired! He wasn’t completely deaf, but his impairments kept him from doing a lot of talking. As a result, he made movements and motions with his hands and his head while trying to express himself. His teachers called him “fidgety!” They also labeled him as “too stupid to learn anything in public school” and recommended to his mother to have him institutionalized. She knew her son was an exceptional child in many ways that the public school teachers could not possibly recognize, so she chose instead to home school him...even before there was such a thing. And where would we be today had his mother put him in an institution? In the dark?”

My favorite quote of Thomas Edison came from an interview he gave while struggling to invent the light bulb...

“I have not failed,” he maintained. “But I have discovered 10,000 ways that do not work."

In order to find other success stories that I could share with those to whom I was speaking, I began reading everything I could find on successful people. I was amazed at all the problems and obstacles they faced as they were starting out. Their individual successes, I would learn, was less a matter of their innate talent and more the product of incredible perseverance, their humility and willingness to stumble and fall, but to stand up again and again.

Many of the people I researched were heroes of mine. Learning of their early failures and foibles only made me respect them more. The only thing that would have disappointed me is if I’d discovered they all had gotten it right on the first try!

Next photograph up on the screen was Michael Jordan...

“It might come as a shock to many of you,” I said, “but this guy...the man who became what many call the best basketball player of all time, wasn’t even good enough to make his high school basketball team. Years later, when asked what motivated him to his great success, this was his answer...

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On twenty six different occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. But this is the reason why I’ve succeeded.”

One photograph after another came up on the screen behind me and I told my audience a significant if not little-known fact about each...

Ludwig van Beethoven...

Beethoven’s early musical skills, especially the violin, were anything but impressive. The teachers at the expensive music school he was attending determined him to be un-teachable and a hopeless case. What they did not know was that the boy could not hear well.

But Beethoven was another whose parents believed in him. It was his father who saw his potential and removed him from that school and took over his education. Over time, Beethoven slowly lost his hearing and yet four of his greatest works were composed when he was completely deaf.

Vincent Van Gogh...

This incredible man fought manic depression all his life. Not many people know this about him, but he could barely function half the time. While he lived, he was not fortunate enough to see success. But now, a century and more after his death, his work is considered as some of the finest painting ever done by any human on earth. Because of this, his name has become a war cry for artists around the world who have been repeatedly rejected and sidelined.

Oscar Wilde...

I was surprised at how few people knew who this most famous British play-write and satirist was. And many that had heard of him did not know he was gay during a time when being gay could get you prison time or worse! And it did.

Unlike the other successful people I’d researched, Wilde started out privileged, with successful and wealthy parents. He did end up being quite famous on his own, but he died an early death as a direct result of being imprisoned for his sexuality. I included him in my lecture because he represented to me what true self-belief and perseverance really are. He was willing to lose everything he had...and he did, rather than pretend to be someone or something that he wasn't.

Christopher Reeve...

I chose to include the Superman star not for his acting abilities, but for his incredible humanity. When that horse stopped short of its jump and jettisoned this young man into the world of quadriplegia, he would face the most challenging role of his life.

“In the morning,” he is quoted as saying, “I need twenty minutes to cry. To wake up and make that shift, you know, and to just say, 'This really sucks' really allow myself the feeling of loss. It still needs to be acknowledged.”

But what was most remarkable about Christopher Reeve was that after the cry and after the soul-searching moments each morning, right up until the very end he would say, “And now...let’s go forward!”

Sometimes the only way to truly know who we are is to reflect on our failures and how we’ve overcome their effects on our life. It is our failures that define us even more so than our successes.

Our failures reveal the depth of our commitments, the breadth of our heart and our soul and the strength of our ability to persevere. They explain our insecurities and our blind spots.

We are always preoccupied with success stories, but we have this strange belief they are only for other people...anyone other than us. We have a tendency to argue for our limitations and let me tell you something...if you are arguing FOR your limitations rather than struggling AGAINST them, your limitations will always win the day. They will become your reality and they will spread over into every other area of your life.

You simply must jettison this idea of having limitations. There are NO limits. There are indeed plateaus that we reach, but we must not stay there. We must go beyond them. If your dreams are to come true, it is all up to you!

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