Cartier: Expectations can define success; the only true failure is giving up (column) |

Cartier: Expectations can define success; the only true failure is giving up (column)

Lately, we have been bombarded with stories of those whose tragic circumstances have prevented them from achieving their life’s dreams, tales of horrid behavior and unfair treatment that have produced a sense of helplessness, which can easily be defined as victimization.

For some, that feeling propels them toward success; for others, it dooms them to a life of unhappiness. What is the difference? How do some people overcome difficult circumstances, while others blossom? It is a belief system that acknowledges that everyone, at some point, will face horribly unfair situations, but they will not let those circumstances define them.

We may not always get what we desire, but we will usually get what we expect. Is that just some fortune cookie saying? Desiring an outcome is passive; it’s like dreaming or wishing. It indicates a direction but does not define the journey. It opens the imagination to possibilities but, in itself, is incomplete.

Expectation involves a strategy that includes a belief system that won’t accept failure as an option. How many times could you be shut down before you give up? How often would you accept “no” as an answer before you decided that your dream was simply impossible?

Thomas Edison’s teachers told him that he was too stupid to learn anything, yet he went on to hold more than 1,000 patents and invented some world-changing devices, such as the phonograph, an electric lamp and a movie camera. When asked about his failures in creating the light bulb, he said, “Why would I feel like a failure, and why would I ever give up? I now know definitively, over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded, is another step forward. Success is almost in my grasp.”

Soon, after more than 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the incandescent bulb. How many of us would have given up at perhaps the 100th attempt?

At 65, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Col. Sanders was on the brink of financial ruin, living alone, broke, with a social security check of $105. The only thing he owned was a popular chicken recipe. Rather than sell the recipe, he decided to give it free and charge a few pennies per piece of chicken sold, which would give him a regular income. He spent two years living in his car; his only meals were samples of chicken he made for restaurateurs.

After 1,009 rejections, someone finally said yes, and 10 years later, he became a millionaire. The difference between 1,008 and 1,009 was the difference between homeless poverty and becoming an international fast-food icon.

Sylvester Stallone’s script was rejected more than 1,500 times. The week before he sold the script, he was so desperate for food money that a tearful Stallone sold his beloved dog for $50. The next week, he bought his dog back for $3,000 and the world was introduced to Rocky Balboa.

Twenty-seven publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’ first children’s book. The 28th publisher sold 6 million copies.

A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He was turned down 302 times before someone financed his idea of “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

When Michael Jordan was asked how he succeeded so well on the court, he said, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game’s winning shot and missed; and I have failed over and over again in my life … that is why I succeed.”

The power these people shared was belief in accomplishing what others considered “impossible.” Belief means not allowing others to define you, to make you a victim … to understand that you may be unable to control the actions of others, but you are in total control of how you respond. You can break barriers if you are willing to go beyond your current environment and step into a new world of possibilities.

An example of belief is Roger Bannister, who broke the 4-minute mile. People had tried for centuries but determined it was humanly impossible. Against all logic, Bannister kept trying. At the finish, Bannister said, “Doctors and scientists said that breaking the 4-minute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt. Thus, when I got up from the track after collapsing at the finish line, I figured I was dead.”

Bannister broke the barrier of self-imposed limitation, and hundreds subsequently followed in his steps. How did that happen? Subsequent runners removed that psychological barrier, allowing the body and brain to figure out a way to make it happen.

Impossible is often just a state of mind. When doubt creeps in and you feel that the task is impossible, ask yourself, “But if it were possible, what would I do next?” That simple question gets you past your barriers and toward the successful accomplishment of your goals. And while it may be scary to attempt “the impossible,” remember that courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it. How many things do we take for granted today that were impossible just a few decades ago?

“All things splendid have been achieved by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.” — Bruce Barton. Refuse to be a victim. Expect more; you deserve it.

Jacqueline Cartier is a political and corporate consultant in Colorado and Washington, D.C. For further information, visit She may be contacted at

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