Learning to cope with failures is the first and most crucial step towards success.
AT age 10, Julio was a little Spanish boy with a dream. He wanted to play football for his favourite club – Real Madrid! He played all day, practised hard and became a very good goalkeeper.
By the time he was 20, the childhood dream was beginning to come true. He was signed up to play for Real Madrid. And most football pundits were predicting that young Julio would soon become Spain’s No.1 goalkeeper.
One evening in 1963, Julio and his friends set out in a car for a night of fun. It turned out to be a night of horror, as the car they were travelling in met with a terrible accident. And young Julio – soon-to-be star goalkeeper of Real Madrid and Spain – found himself in hospital, paralysed from the waist downwards. Doctors were unsure if he’d ever be able to walk again. They were pretty sure he would never play football again.
The road to recovery was long and painful. Julio spent the night thinking about what might have been. His mind was filled with sorrow, anger, regret. To lessen the pain, he took to writing songs and poems at night, with a tear in his eye and a pen in his hand. And to increase the dexterity in his hand, a nurse gave him a guitar. He had never touched a guitar in his life! But soon Julio began strumming the guitar and also singing the songs that he had been writing.
After being bed-ridden for 18 months, Julio gradually picked up the pieces of his life. Five years after the accident, Julio entered a singing competition – and won the first prize – singing a song called “Life goes on the same!”
He never played football again. But with a guitar in hand and a song on his lips, Julio Iglesias went on to become one of the top ten singers in the history of music, selling over 300 million albums. Just imagine. If not for that accident, Julio Iglesias would have probably been just another goalkeeper in Europe!
What happened to Julio that evening in 1963 could happen to any of us. A setback or an accident – or failure – can often appear to be the end of the road. But it seldom is. When one door shuts, usually another one opens. It’s just that we get so busy staring at the closed door and banging our head against it that we fail to spot the other door opening. Learning to cope with failure is often the first – and most critical step – towards success.
Never let failure impact your sense of self-belief. You are a star, with unique talents. Didn’t clear the entrance exam to engineering college? Maybe you weren’t meant to be an engineer. That’s all.
Even Albert Einstein didn’t clear the entrance exam to join a polytechnic. But he didn’t do too badly, did he? Maybe there is a better, brighter career waiting for you. The trick is to move on and like Julio, tell yourself that “Life goes on the same”.
Several years ago, a bright little boy in a government school in Kerala had a dream. He wanted to be a doctor. He did well in school, and everybody was convinced that this little boy would someday become a fine doctor. He wrote the entrance exam – but failed to make the cut! He was devastated.
His parents were shocked. He went on to do a BSc then a Masters degree, worked with an IT firm – and later went on to found Infosys. His name? Kris Gopalakrishnan, CEO, Infosys. Just imagine. Had Kris not failed the medical entrance, he may have been in some little town in Kerala today, prescribing antibiotics for a runny nose or a nagging flu. Imagine!
Good lesson to learn from Julio. And from Kris. When one door shuts, another one opens. Just believe in yourself. Next time you are faced with a failure or a setback, look out for the other door. Push it open. And go find your place in the sun!
Prakash Iyer is MD, Kimberly-Clark, and executive coach.