Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On Failure, Resilience, and Ulysses S. Grant.

Did you know that in Death Valley, there are plants that spend the majority of their life dormant under the ground? When just enough rain falls for germination, they sprout and bloom beautiful flowers. They then return to their previous state awaiting a moment to shine again, often sustaining life for dozens of years in the most uninhabitable parts of the world. This gloriously metaphoric intro, brought to you by a documentary on the National Geographic channel, leads into what I think might have been one of the greatest comebacks of all time brought to you by a documentary on PBS:

Ulysses S. Grant. AKA the 18th president of the United States. AKA the brilliant military leader who helped turn the tide of the civil war. AKA a drunkard who got kicked out of the army who then tried and failed to start a business. Yes, before the rowdy south up and fired cannons on Fort Sumter, ol' Ulysses was just a washed up failure in his late 30s with nothing to show for his life. Having lost half of their military officers to the Confederacy, the Union was in great need of leaders. So, when Grant rejoined the army in 1861, (to be fair, he had graduated from West Point) he was promoted to general, leader of the union military forces, and was elected president twice. In doing so, he carved out a spot in history that often glides over his stint as the intoxicated loser up at Fort Humboldt.

Who doesn't like the story of an underdog? There's something so entirely inspiring in the story of someone who not only comes up from the bottom, but does so after failing so thoroughly. It gives the rest of us hope; that the Hostess®es of the world can rise again. If we don't succeed in a class, job, project, or other attempt, it never means we should give up. I'm at home, sitting next to Arthur, the dog my brother and I rescued from an animal shelter in Spanish Fork where he was less than a week away from being euthanized. Now our pampered puppy princess spends his days in the California sunshine chasing squirrels or on my bed with a feather mattress surrounded by his toys. Things can and will get better.
Pampered Puppy Princess

I personally like to believe there's no such thing as a failure, there's only setbacks and new opportunities. With a work injury my early 20s, I had to give up my grad school acceptance in one field and find a whole new career. I was told the rest of my life I'd have an impairment that would only get worse and cause chronic pain. But so far, life just continues like it normally does and my future seems bright and hopeful. So, things haven't worked out how I thought they would, but they have the way they needed to. With challenges comes resilience, and with resilience we are able to weather the storms of life. The more difficulties we overcome, the greater people and greater leaders we become. Friends, if something hasn't worked out how you'd hoped or how you'd planned, don't give up. Maybe you need to be patient. Maybe you need to try harder. Or maybe there's something else all together out there for you. I promise, one way or another, things will always work out.