Fear of failure is something with which most human beings struggle.
Even greatness is not exempt from defeat. Which is one of the reasons I was struck by Aaron Sorkin’s reminiscence of Steve Jobs in last week’s Newsweek, which illustrated, more than anything else, how even great men struggle with self-doubt. Most would agree that both Sorkin and Jobs orbit the realm of serious accomplishment, but also, over the course of their careers, both have fallen short and suffered setbacks.
It has often been said that the true barometer by which we measure success must also include how well we endure our failures; Jobs was outstanding because he had ample reason to feel discouraged—from the messy way he entered the world to the painful rejection that came from the company he started—and yet, he persevered. The kinship Sorkin felt with Jobs is obvious in the excerpt below: Here are two ordinary men who live (and lived) very public lives, who both endured their successes, failures and foibles publicly. As many in Hollywood can attest, it takes a great deal of courage to live out one’s life on a stage over which they have little control. It takes even greater courage to fail on that stage, to not be discouraged by popular opinion or public feedback and to continue to walk the path that feels true.
In the now famous commencement address Jobs delivered at Stanford, he spread a message of “Don’t settle.” You have to be a little bit crazy to believe in dreams and chase after fantasies, especially after you’ve fallen, but the way to achieve big things often requires just that, or as Jobs exhorted, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
The second-to-last call I got from Steve came the day a television series of mine was canceled. “I just want to make sure you’re not discouraged,” he said. Why would an almost stranger take even 60 seconds out of his day to make that call? It had to have been because he was an awfully nice man. And that he knew what it felt like to blow it on a big stage.
But it’s his last call I’ll always remember. He wanted me to write a Pixar movie. I told him I loved Pixar movies, I’d seen all of them at least twice and felt they were small miracles, but that I didn’t think I’d be good at it.
STEVE: Why not?
ME: I just—I don’t think I can make inanimate objects talk.
STEVE: Once you make them talk they won’t be inanimate.
ME: The truth is I don’t know how to tell those stories. I have a young kid who loves Pixar movies and she’ll turn cartwheels if I tell her I’m writing one and I don’t want to disappoint her by writing the only bad movie in the history of Pixar.
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