A Story of Shocking Failure (And How We Can Avoid It)

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I want to tell you a story from early in my career, a story that is famous within my family, but that I haven’t told very much outside of them and close friends. I won’t mention any names because you would know them.

Stage Mic TagYears ago, we had three friends—one was a huge international superstar singer, one was a talent promoter, and one was an up-and-coming singer. We still have recordings of the singers. Both were immensely talented.

Exercising a common move beneficial to all parties, the talent promoter placed the up-and-comer on a tour with the superstar. The promoter’s hope, of course, was that the up-and-comer would be in a position to learn from the superstar and, in so doing, would develop lasting success.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

You see, the up-and-comer had five number one hits in a row. This was largely a result of him being in front of the superstar’s audience night after night on the tour. But the up-and-comer didn’t see it that way. He decided that, because of the success he was experiencing, he didn’t really need to learn anything else from the superstar. He didn’t need to be anyone’s opening act anymore. He was too big for that kind of thing. So he went out on his own and, on the way out the door, fired the talent promoter who had been his manager.

In a surprise to no one but himself, I suppose, the young, immensely talented singer immediately vanished from the national scene. Lasting to this day, it remains a professional disappearing act worthy of a great magician.

In some ways, this is a shocking story, because this up-and-comer was truly gifted. His songs were and are awesome. To this day, they still hold up. But, in many other ways, this is not a shocking story. It’s something you and I see all the time with people in our lives, whether it’s the child who didn’t think he needed to listen to mom and dad anymore or the athlete who chose to rely on talent instead of coaching.

We all know what usually happens when people choose to abandon the teaching that allowed them to find success—they experience failure. You know it, I know it, and usually the person to whom this happens knows it on some level. The odd thing is that they never expect that it will happen to them. And that is why I like to continually remind myself of this story. So I’ll not forget that I’m never done learning. There is always more wisdom out there, and we need to do everything we can to seek it.

I’m more than 50 years old and just now starting to feel like I’ve figured out a thing or two. But I’m also more and more determined than ever to surround myself with people from whom I can learn—great parents, writers, speakers, husbands, business people—anyone who has experienced success in an area in which I want to be successful.

Let us all remember this story as we endeavor to create the lives we want for our families and ourselves. We’re not done learning. We never will be. There is more to discover, more knowledge to absorb and apply to our lives. The fruit is on the tree. Are you ready to reach out and grab it?


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