Kurt Vonnegut wasn’t kidding when he wrote in his 1990 hilarious success Hocus Pocus, “I see no harm in telling young people to prepare for failure rather than success, since failure is the main thing that is going to happen to them.” Vonnegut also said about life, quite famously, “When in doubt, castle.”
Considering Vonnegut is a voice of a generation, and that he often gave speeches to students, his advice might not come off as particularly productive.
However, there are several important life lessons we can take from Vonnegut’s jaded, rather depressing words of wisdom. The most important being: there is no such thing as success if we don’t first consider failure.
Whether you’re a child violin prodigy or a failing business entrepreneur, a small-town lawyer or sales assistant, there will come a time in life that you will get knocked down.
This is a fact of human existence; perhaps the only way we can come to know success or happiness.
Life is Deeply Fragile and Intensely Puzzling
The scope of each decision is vast, considering that each one made can change a life for better, or worse.
When Steve Jobs dropped out of college, he was penniless and inspired, but very lost. He was wading his way through an academic terrain he didn’t believe in, but unsure of what he really believed in. In a sense, he failed before he began.
In this, we can learn that failure is a crucial part of the process of learning.
There’s a reason memories we associate with something bad often come to mind before happy memories, and that is because the human brain is wired to remind the person why something bad happened.
Inspiring Life Lessons
Learn these life lessons and you are well on your way to achieving the things that inspire the drive that’s inside of you:
1. Let Yourself Feel Lost
Feeling lost isn’t pleasant; in fact, it’s downright unsettling. But feeling unsettled, in a twisted sort of way, is also the way we are forced to “grow up” a little, “mature” a little, grow slightly more humble, and slightly more sure of what we don’t want.
When Jobs founded Apple in his parents’ garage, he was still penniless and inspired, but also suddenly deeply driven. In a sense, he became inspired by the feeling of being lost, and developed a strong desire to find his way.
2. Plunge Into Something You Really Believe In
Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, grew up in the Brooklyn projects. After graduating from college in northern Michigan, Schultz moved penniless to Seattle to work for Xerox.
He put everything he had into trying to start a small, independent coffee shop called Starbucks. And when the shop began to grow, so did Schultz.
Schultz had a plan, and he stuck to it. His decision to put everything he had in the coffee shop, while not quite a knee jerk reaction, only succeeded because he mixed his desire for the shop to succeed, with a love of working.
His work ethic alone is something we can all look to for inspiration.
3. Be Flexible With Your Plan
Most often, things will not pan out the way you plan. Mostly, you will change more than your plans. In a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, they found that the more successful the Ducati Course motorcycle team was, the more focused they became on winning, but not on learning.
It made them worse as a team. Only when they lost to a rookie team were they able to improve their skill.
4. Do the Job to Make Yourself Proud
You are the only one who gets to determine what ‘success’ means for your life. Whatever choices you make in life – make choices that will make you proud afterward.
Often this means not quitting, but every so often, quitting is the right thing to do. Know your limits. Know what feels most right.
5. Find Something That Makes You Come Alive
Howard Thurman put it best: “Do not ask yourself what the world needs.
Ask yourself what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs are people who are alive.”
What Life Lessons Have You Learned?
If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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