“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.”
~ Og Mandino
Augustine “Og” Mandino (1923-1996) was the very successful American author whose book, The Greatest Salesman in the World, sold over 50 million copies. He was a self-educated man who spent the better part of his adult life working to help others be successful.
Mandino flew thirty bombing missions over Germany during World War II, returned home and became an insurance salesman. While struggling against an alcohol addiction, Og contemplated suicide. His discovery of several self-help books in a public library led him on a quest to visit other libraries around the country to educate himself about success. His writings translated the wisdom of the ancients into a formula for success in modern America.
I am convinced that if a person deems success to be important, that person will also be preoccupied by the possibility of failure. So it’s no surprise to me that this quote begins with the word failure. Often, when I consider the word “overtake”, I look at it in the sense of something catching you as you move to elude it. I don’t believe this is the meaning Mandino had in mind. Rather, I think he meant it in the sense that failure takes over his life or ours. Knowing a bit about his life story, I believe he was thinking about the time when he felt a desperate sense of collapse of his spirit so severe that he contemplated the unthinkable – suicide.
I don’t know anyone who would shrug indifferently in the face of failure. The first five words above “Failure will never overtake me” resonated strongly within me. The fear of failure has been a personal demon of mine as far back as I can remember. I believe that a healthy fear of failure is a very good thing – it can spur you on when you encounter obstacles. As well, it can help you avoid complacency which can easily lead to failure because you do not give your best effort.
There have been times in my life when fear of failure became a demon in the sense that it seemed to take over. Extreme fear, which is irrational, is debilitating! Instead of spurring you on to a stellar effort, it paralyzes you into inaction, and inevitably to failure. As I grew to maturity, my life experience and the significant people around me, taught me that the demon is conquerable. I’ll use the analogy of taming a wild animal to obey commands. Once I used the power of my own will to tame that demon, it serves me well – it is a factor in my drive for success.
Mandino adds the proviso: “if my determination to succeed is strong enough”. What comes to mind is the age-old question, “How badly do you want it?” How difficult must the obstacles be before you will quit? Is there an obstacle that will make you quit? If there is… you don’t want to succeed very badly! Most successful people had to overcome many instances of failure before they achieved success or stardom. Walt Disney and J. K. Rowling are just two examples. If these two people had not refused to abandon their dreams in the face of numerous instances of failure, the world would never have been able to play in Disneyland or delight in the adventures of Harry Potter!
As I ponder Og Mandino’s words of wisdom, I realize that I don’t have to achieve stardom or amass countless wealth in order to be successful. Do I have one dream to fulfill or do I have several? What do I really need to accomplish in my life? Is my dream, my goal, about myself? As a writer, if I become a best-seller, will I be satisfied? How do I measure success? As a man, what must I accomplish to be successful? The questions are endless – and I’m just one person.
None of us are identical to each other, so our questions about success and failure will vary – and so will our answers! My point is, you and I must determine for ourselves what success means and whether or not there exists an insurmountable obstacle to our goal. No one can set your goals for you. If your goal is not your own, then mustering the necessary determination to achieve it will be impossible. It is a lonely path we journey, but we journey not alone, for we all have the same journey. A paradox, perhaps, but I believe it to be true.