Recently a good friend was telling me about his frustrations with his young son who tends to give up if he can’t do something straight away.
‘I think it’s our fault,’ he said. ‘We always told him he was special, and he grew up thinking that he could do anything without too much effort.
Now, if something gets hard, he just gives up and does something else.’
As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in Outliers, talent can be over rated.
Sometimes what we call genius is actually the product of ten thousand hours of practice; in other words, just plain hard work.
History is littered with examples. Here’s 14 of them.
1. Walt Disney:
The name Walt Disney is now a byword for fantasy. But the man who created Mickey Mouse and Disneyland was once fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
2 Albert Einstein:
He’s often referred to as a genius but he actually failed the entrance examinations for the Zurich Polytechnic School and when he finally graduated he was out of work for two years. That must have seemed like a long while to him but in a relatively short time he won the Nobel Prize and changed the face of modern physics.
3. Thomas Edison:
In his early years, a teacher called him ‘addled’ and told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Later in life he made at least one thousand unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. His response to his repeated failures? ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found a thousand ways it won’t work.’
4. Oprah Winfrey:
Most people know Oprah as one of the most successful women in the world. But it wasn’t an easy road; the daughter of an unmarried mother, she suffered abuse at the hands of her cousin, uncle and a family friend and was herself pregnant at just 14.
She was fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for TV.”
She went on to host the most popular talk show in television history and now has a net worth of almost 3 billion dollars.
5. Jerry Seinfeld:
The first time the young Seinfeld walked on stage at a comedy club, he froze and was jeered off of the stage. It would have finished most aspiring comics. But he went back the very next night, completed his set and the rest is history.
6. Fred Astaire:
In his first screen test, a casting director at MGM noted: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire went on to make over thirty movies and was named ‘The Greatest Male Actor of All Time’ by the American Film Institute.
7. Vincent Van Gogh:
During his lifetime, Van Gogh sold only one painting, (‘The Red Vineyard at Arles’ now in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow).
He completed over 800 paintings but died a pauper. Today, his lifetime’s work is valued in hundreds of millions of dollars.
8. Steven Spielberg:
One of the most prolific and successful filmmakers of all time, the man who brought us “Schindler’s List,” “Jaws,” “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park’ was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three times.
Following his outrageously successful career, the film school awarded him an honorary degree in 1994 and two years later, he became a trustee of the university. So there.
9. Stephen King:
King actually did give up. His first book, “Carrie”, received thirty rejections, and eventually he just threw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to try again; King is now one of the best-selling authors of all time.
10. Jack London:
The author of iconic novels such as “White Fang” and “The Call of the Wild” received six hundred rejection slips before finally getting his first short story accepted. That’s persistence.
11. Elvis Presley:
Back in 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, told the young Elvis: “You ain’t going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.”
Luckily for us, Elvis didn’t get all shook up about it. The King went on to become a legend. Jimmy Who?
12. The Beatles:
When they were just starting out, a recording company rejected their audition tape with the words: “We don’t like their sound, and anyway guitar music is on the way out.’
13. Michael Jordan:
The best basketball player of all time was once cut from his high school basketball team.
Jordan didn’t let this setback stop him.
In fact, Michael was never fazed by failure: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
14. Babe Ruth:
The Sultan of Swat established a record for career home runs (714 during his career), but he also held the record for strikeouts as well.
When asked about this he said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
So the lesson is: never give up.
If you have a dream hold it close and never take your eyes off the prize.
Because if you fail, it’s not failure.
It’s just practice.
EVERY MONTH YOU COULD WIN A COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS!
The following short clip is from an address that Kevin Spacey made to the Edinburgh International Television Festival; he talks about the future of story, about how stories are being delivered, and about the importance of listening to the people who want them.
What do the changes in television have to do with writing fiction and the future of our industry? Everything, I believe.
The future is not coming. It’s here.
My latest novel, EAST INDIA, was published on 11 July!
Described by one critic as ‘Jack and Rose in the seventeenth century’, East India is a story of romance, courage and survival in the face of overwhelming odds.
There’s a one in two hundred chance that you could be a distant relative of one of the great mass murderers in all history. Much higher, if you were born along the Silk Road.
A pleasant thought.
See why here:
“A magisterial tale.” – UK Daily Mail
“Callous executions, one-eyed camel drivers, corruption, sin, a heart-wrenching love story, dark secrets, and life and death circumstances are revealed at a fast pace in each brief chapter.
The plot is rich and sure to keep the reader focused on turning the page to learn what happens next – and always to some shocking circumstance or pleasant surprise.
That’s what I loved most about this book – plenty of the odd and unusual to keep me fascinated throughout.It is the richness of the prose itself that truly made this historical era come alive.” -Historical Novel Review
When you make a movie for the big screen, you’re allowed to completely rewrite history, apparently.
A lot of people like Braveheart, for instance. I wonder though if we could have liked it just as well without the kilts, and William Wallace not having an affair with Isabella of France, because he didn’t and she was only three years old at the time.
The mistakes they make in movies you’d never get away with in a novel, (mumbles something about tomatoes.)
HERE ARE TEN OF THE BIGGEST HISTORICAL MOVIE MISTAKES EVER
When you watch a movie, how important is historical accuracy to you? And do you have different standards for a novel??
Here’s the story of the man Isabella really did have an affair with …
She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.
12 year old Isabella, a French princess marries the King of England – only to discover he has a terrible secret.
Ten long years later she is in utter despair – does she submit to a lifetime of solitude and a spiritual death – or seize her destiny and take the throne of England for herself?
This is the story of Isabella, the only woman ever to invade England – and win.
“This is phenomenal historical fiction that is highly recommended. Once you read Colin Falconer, you’ll want to read everything he has ever written as well as what he will craft in the future!” – Crystal Book Reviews