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Archive for the “Failure” Category

I have written before about R.A. Dickey, the knuckleballing right-hander of the Toronto Blue Jays, but I rise today to do it again.

8673286311_724461eaa5_bAlas, alack. I am a longtime fan of the consistently lowly New York Mets. The Mets certainly turned it around this year with a whole stable of kick-ass young arms, like Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey. But up to this year, and for the last decade the only thing I’ve had to cheer for was an oddball, old failure named R.A. Dickey.

Dickey was traded by the Mets to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012 after winning the Cy Young Award, baseball’s highest pitching honor. Tonight he starts Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. (By the time most people read this blog he will have won or lost against the Kansas City Royals.)

I love R.A. Dickey. He is now 40 years old. He reminds me of me–the best me–old and deeply formed by multiple failures, sadness, and hard knocks. A man who has had an unexpected and accidental life. He is an inspiration and is a shining beacon to me for what is achievable, even out of the embers of a fallen, inadequate, and heavily scarred life experience.

Back in 2012, R.A. wrote a book called Wherever I Wind Up. I think all company creators and entrepreneurs should read it. It’s an autobiography. It’s well-written and not at all your usual self-congratulatory jock tome. (In that, it reminds me of Andre Agassi’s compelling book Open in 2009.)

To briefly sum up Dickey’s riveting story, he describes his life as one long recovery from depression, childhood sexual abuse, brokenness and frequent thoughts of suicide. He describes himself as a “picture of mediocrity” until he discovered the vehicle of his salvation, the knuckleball. But even more important is his courage and humility in describing the very personal process of becoming a fully realized and whole man.

After being a high draft choice out of Tennessee, it was discovered that Dickey was missing a key elbow ligament needed to stabilize his pitching arm. He bounced around several major and minor league teams for many years, till, out of desperation, he took up the knuckleball, a pitch that only a handful of men have ever learned to handle effectively.

Bristol, CT - May 23, 2013 - Studio A: Doug Glanville on the Baseball Tonight set.(Photo by Joe Faraoni/ ESPN Images)

In a lovely essay in the The New York Times a couple of years ago, his old teammate and friend, TV commentator Doug Glanville, describes the knuckleball as “a joystick-controlled UFO” of a pitch, totally unpredictable in its trajectory to the batter, but also unpredictable to the pitcher himself. It is a joyous goofball accident of a pitch.

“A good knuckleball has no spin, at least not the one that acts like the butterfly that just drank enough cocktails to be over the legal drinking limit. And it’s slow enough, and frozen enough, so you can see the letters on the ball. But it’s no comfort reading those letters, since you have absolutely no idea where they’re going, and truth be told, neither does the pitcher. He only has a general sense of the ball’s direction, and one of the only reasons success within this type of guesswork ever comes is because “general” is an adjective that also applies to the strike zone.”

So, what does Dickey have to say to the entrepreneur?

Dickey is a triumph of autodidactic bootstrapping, as well as of practical humility. Like most of us entrepreneurs, he was bad before he became good. Jason Gay, the sports columnist of the WSJ quotes him after winning his 20th game in 2012 as saying, “I am by no stretch of the imagination, a self-made man.”

But that is not completely ingenuous, as endearingly unpretentious as R.A. may be. He has made a journey into freedom, wholeness and authenticity that is also the pursuit of most of the effective entrepreneurs I know. Entrepreneurship can be a vehicle for personal salvation, much as R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball has saved his life and career. I personally think of the entrepreneurial company as, much like the knuckleball, an unpredictable butterfly of unexpected twists and turns–but a still infinitely rewarding vehicle of meaning and happiness for those with the courage to ride it.

I believe R.A. is a Christian, but to me he is a true Zen Buddhist master of living in the present. He is a very specific inspiration and existential hero to me, as an entrepreneur.

Samuel_Beckett,_Pic,_1So my inner entrepreneur will be holding R.A. Dickey close to my bosom as he pitches in Toronto tonight. It’s a game I will watch. I hope he does well, but, no matter what, he is my favorite failure. We should all be willing to fail so well.

Bob Dylan once said, “There’s no success like failure.” As R.A. Dickey goes for the win tonight, I think he will well understand Dylan’s statement. Samuel Beckett states poetically, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Thanks Bob. Thanks Samuel. Thanks R.A. Dickey.

Comments 4 Comments »

R. A. Dickey won baseball’s Cy Young Award last Thursday.  I’m so delighted. R. A. is a great existential hero of mine.  I relate to him, I admire him, he inspires me.  So much so that this week I simply want to reprint an encomium I wrote about him last month.

Suffice it to say that R. A. Dickey is an inspiration for persistence, passion, and an indefatigable will to learn from failure.  He has so much to say to the creative business striver.  The following is a reprint of my post of October 2nd.

R. A. DICKEY, FAILURE, AND ENTREPRENEURIAL KNUCKLEBALL

Alas, alack.  I am a long-term fan of the consistently lowly New York Mets.  It’s been another lackluster season for my beloved team.  Except for one thing.  That one thing is a 37-year-old failure called R.A. Dickey.

I love R.A. Dickey.  He reminds me of me-the best me-old and deeply formed by multiple failures, sadness and hard knocks.  A man who has had an unexpected and accidental life.  He is an inspiration and is a shining beacon to me for what is achievable, even out of the embers of a fallen, inadequate, and heavily scarred life experience.

R.A. has recently written a book called Wherever I Wind Up.  I think all company creators and entrepreneurs should read it.  It’s an autobiography.  It’s well-written and not at all your usual self-congratulatory jock tome. (In that, it reminds me of Andre Agassi’s compelling book Open in 2009.)

To briefly sum up Dickey’s riveting story, he describes his life as one long recovery from depression, childhood sexual abuse, brokenness and frequent thoughts of suicide.  He describes himself as a “picture of mediocrity” until he discovered the vehicle of his salvation, the knuckleball.  But even more important is his courage and humility in describing the very personal process of becoming a fully realized and whole man.

After being a high draft choice out of Tennessee, it was discovered that Dickey was missing a key elbow ligament needed to stabilize his pitching arm.   He bounced around several major and minor league teams for many years, till, out of desperation, he took up the knuckleball, a pitch that only a handful of men have ever learned to handle effectively.

In a lovely essay in the NY Times (7/13/12),  his old teammate and friend, Doug Glanville, describes the knuckleball as  “a joystick-controlled UFO” of a pitch, totally unpredictable in its trajectory to the batter, but also unpredictable to the pitcher himself.  It is a joyous goofball accident of a pitch.

“A good knuckleball has no spin, at least not the one that acts like the butterfly that just drank enough cocktails to be over  the legal drinking limit. And it’s slow enough, and frozen enough, so you can see the letters on the ball. But it’s no comfort  reading those letters, since you have absolutely no idea where they’re going, and truth be told, neither does the pitcher. He only has a general sense of the ball’s direction, and one of the only reasons success within this type of guesswork ever comes is because “general” is an adjective that also applies to the strike zone.”

So, what does Dickey have to say to the entrepreneur?

Dickey is a triumph of autodidactic bootstrapping, as well as practical humility.  Like most of us entrepreneurs, he was bad before he became good.   Jason Gay, the sports columnist of the WSJ (Friday, September, 28, p. A 27) quotes him, after winning his 20th game last week as saying, “I am by no stretch of the imagination, a self-made man.”

But that is not completely true, as endearingly unpretentious as R.A. may be.  He has made a journey into freedom, wholeness and authenticity that is also the pursuit of most of the effective entrepreneurs I know.  Entrepreneurship can be a vehicle for personal salvation, much as R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball has saved his life and career.  I personally think of the entrepreneurial company as, much like the knuckleball, an unpredictable butterfly of unexpected twists and turns-but a still infinitely rewarding vehicle of meaning and happiness for those with the courage to ride it.

I believe R.A. is a Christian, but to me he is a true Zen Buddhist master of living in the present.  He is a very specific inspiration and existential hero to me, as an entrepreneur.

So my inner entrepreneur will be holding R.A. Dickey close to my bosom when he goes for his 21st victory in Miami tonight.  It’s a game I will watch.  I hope he does well, but, no matter what, he is my favorite failure.  We should all be willing to fail so well.

Bob Dylan once said, “There’s no success like failure.”  As R.A. Dickey goes for his 21st win tonight I think he well understands Dylan’s statement. Samuel Beckett states poetically “Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again. Fail again.  Fail better.”

Thanks Bob.  Thanks Samuel.    Thanks R.A. Dickey.

Comments 10 Comments »

Alas, alack.  I am a long-term fan of the consistently lowly New York Mets.  It’s been another lackluster season for my beloved team.  Except for one thing.  That one thing is a 37-year-old failure called R.A. Dickey.

I love R.A. Dickey.  He reminds me of me-the best me-old and deeply formed by multiple failures, sadness and hard knocks.  A man who has had an unexpected and accidental life.  He is an inspiration and is a shining beacon to me for what is achievable, even out of the embers of a fallen, inadequate, and heavily scarred life experience.

R.A. has recently written a book called Wherever I Wind Up.  I think all company creators and entrepreneurs should read it.  It’s an autobiography.  It’s well-written and not at all your usual self-congratulatory jock tome. (In that, it reminds me of Andre Agassi’s compelling book Open in 2009.)

To briefly sum up Dickey’s riveting story, he describes his life as one long recovery from depression, childhood sexual abuse, brokenness and frequent thoughts of suicide.  He describes himself as a “picture of mediocrity” until he discovered the vehicle of his salvation, the knuckleball.  But even more important is his courage and humility in describing the very personal process of becoming a fully realized and whole man.

After being a high draft choice out of Tennessee, it was discovered that Dickey was missing a key elbow ligament needed to stabilize his pitching arm.   He bounced around several major and minor league teams for many years, till, out of desperation, he took up the knuckleball, a pitch that only a handful of men have ever learned to handle effectively.

In a lovely essay in the NY Times (7/13/12),  his old teammate and friend, Doug Glanville, describes the knuckleball as  “a joystick-controlled UFO” of a pitch, totally unpredictable in its trajectory to the batter, but also unpredictable to the pitcher himself.  It is a joyous goofball accident of a pitch.

“A good knuckleball has no spin, at least not the one that acts like the butterfly that just drank enough cocktails to be over  the legal drinking limit. And it’s slow enough, and frozen enough, so you can see the letters on the ball. But it’s no comfort  reading those letters, since you have absolutely no idea where they’re going, and truth be told, neither does the pitcher. He only has a general sense of the ball’s direction, and one of the only reasons success within this type of guesswork ever comes is because “general” is an adjective that also applies to the strike zone.”

So, what does Dickey have to say to the entrepreneur?

Dickey is a triumph of autodidactic bootstrapping, as well as practical humility.  Like most of us entrepreneurs, he was bad before he became good.   Jason Gay, the sports columnist of the WSJ (Friday, September, 28, p. A 27) quotes him, after winning his 20th game last week as saying, “I am by no stretch of the imagination, a self-made man.”

But that is not completely true, as endearingly unpretentious as R.A. may be.  He has made a journey into freedom, wholeness and authenticity that is also the pursuit of most of the effective entrepreneurs I know.  Entrepreneurship can be a vehicle for personal salvation, much as R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball has saved his life and career.  I personally think of the entrepreneurial company as, much like the knuckleball, an unpredictable butterfly of unexpected twists and turns-but a still infinitely rewarding vehicle of meaning and happiness for those with the courage to ride it.

I believe R.A. is a Christian, but to me he is a true Zen Buddhist master of living in the present.  He is a very specific inspiration and existential hero to me, as an entrepreneur.

So my inner entrepreneur will be holding R.A. Dickey close to my bosom when he goes for his 21st victory in Miami tonight.  It’s a game I will watch.  I hope he does well, but, no matter what, he is my favorite failure.  We should all be willing to fail so well.

Bob Dylan once said, “There’s no success like failure.”  As R.A. Dickey goes for his 21st win tonight I think he well understands Dylan’s statement. Samuel Beckett states poetically “Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again. Fail again.  Fail better.”

Thanks Bob.  Thanks Samuel.    Thanks R.A. Dickey.

Comments 8 Comments »

Rosalind Russell once said, “Flops are part of life’s menu and I’ve never been a girl to miss out on any of the courses.”

I posted about failure and the entrepreneur last week. This week let’s consider failure and sales.  And I mean this in the most positive way. Really.

One of the accidentally formative experiences in my life was spending ten years as an actor. One of the key things an actor must learn early is dealing with rejection. An actor must accept rejection (failure) on a daily basis. He deals with constant and very personal rejection. It’s a splendid preparation for sales. Put simply, to survive my actor’s life I had to find satisfaction not in the occasional success–actually getting a role–but in the process of auditioning itself. Likewise in sales, happiness must be found in the process, as well as the results.

Rejection is a big part of the salesman’s life. My solution, and my company Corporate Rain’s solution, to dealing with this conundrum is simply to look on all interactions with potential clients as service. Every moment should be a variation on “How can I help?” This creates a tonality and a truth of caring and mutuality. It is the correct selling ambiance. And it is simply karmically efficient. Certainly long-term, reputation-based sales success is generated from many small, trust-building actions, including getting even more courteous when rejection comes, as it does much of the time in the sales process.

Earlier in my life I chanted as a Buddhist for a year. One of my favorite Buddhist prayers thanks God for challenges and failures, not successes. Thereby you learn and grow. The lotus flower is born out of the muck.

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Theodore RooseveltI’m a failure. Many times a failure. It’s probably the most salient fact about me as an entrepreneur. And failure is my friend.

In fact whatever success has happened in my business life is directly related to my many failures–failure as an academic, failure as an actor, failure as an opera singer, failure as a Broadway producer. Still I did all those things with passion and a committed heart and one day found myself a successful entrepreneur, seemingly without even planning to be. Honestly, I don’t believe the mantle of success, however minor that success be, would ever have been fitted to me without fully embracing a lifetime of failures and personal botches. Somehow a glomeration of insufficiencies, by some magical alchemy, created a new being of entrepreneurial adequacy and fulfillment.

I realized my debt to failure several years ago, when one of my employees asked me the secret sauce of what I did as an entrepreneur and salesman for my company Corporate Rain. My rather pompous and condescending reply, I recall, had something to do with bromides like hard work, honesty, preparation–the usual suspects. But my employee interrupted me saying. “No, no, no. I want to know the special, personal thing you do that makes you really good.” After stuttering  a minute, the only thing I could come up with was that I got good by being quite bad–over and over again.

My client and entrepreneurial colleague Walt Lawrence, of Concussion Advertising in Dallas, recently sent me a quote. I’ll share it. It’s excerpted from a famous speech Theodore Roosevelt gave on April 23, 1910.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Thanks, Theodore.

Comments 8 Comments »

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