Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Price of Success is Failure

Victory, Failure and Common Sense

Bears continue to be victorious: From Joanne Panza comes a note about the Bears football team. This season thus far they have defeated the Laurel Spartans, Monessen Greyhounds, Frazier Commodores, Bentworth Bearcats, Fort Cherry Rangers, and the Chartiers-Houston Buccaneers. Total points scored by the Bears: 284. Total points scored by their opponents: 24. Go Bears!

Clairton is a failure as a city: We have written in this space of the glory days of the Mon-Yough Valley, particularly our old hometown of Clairton. Many people point to other communities who were hit hard by the downfall of the steel industry in the Pittsburgh area that have seemingly bounced back better than has Clairton. Despite the fact that the Clairton Works is one of the few operating mills left from the booming days of the post-World II era, Clairton, they say, is a failure. And perhaps this unnamed “they” are right. But let’s take a look at failure and failures.

The dictionary definition of failure is: “…an event that does not accomplish its intended purpose.” Some well known and lesser known failures include Margaret Mitchell whose fiancĂ© was killed in battle, mother died leaving the 19-year old to run the house, entered into an abusive marriage, then broke her ankle. It was during the ankle recovery period that she wrote a book of survival after failure – “Gone With the Wind.”

Bill Gates, Lewis Tappan, and Walt Disney all had business failures. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built a computer they called Apple. They pounded on doors to try to sell it and made presentations to Atari and Hewlett-Packard among others, all of whom rejected it. Harrison Ford was fired from Columbia Pictures and told he had no talent and would never make it as an actor. Abraham Lincoln had a string of business and political failures until he finally won his first election. J.K. Rowling was a divorced single Mom with an infant who did much of her writing in a pub before her Harry Potter books caught on. R.H. Macy went bankrupt seven times before finally building his successful Macy’s chain of stores. Decca Recording Company rejected the music of the young English mopheads because “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” Fortunately the Beatles did not give up.

Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs but struck out 1330 times. Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb and over 100 other things, once said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Beethoven was deaf and psychologically disabled and his music teacher said he was hopeless at composition. Sir Winston Churchill was bipolar and had a learning disability. He failed to get elected until age 52 when he became the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Fred Astaire’s first audition evaluation card said, “Balding skinny kid who can dance a little.” The Wright Brothers, after several failures, invited a host of people to witness their first flight. Five people showed up.

Smartest man in the twentieth century: Albert E. Einstein was considered slow as a child. He did not walk until age 3 or speak until age 7. He thought in pictures rather than words. He was expelled from one school and the headmaster of another refused to admit him because “…he will never amount to much.” Many scientists believe he was autistic. My belief is that failure is the tuition one pays to learn success.

Among Einstein’s quotations are: "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. The whole of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking, and my favorite, Common Sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”

It would seem that common sense would be more common – that people would have been able to see the genius in the above failures. But alas, it was not to be. Clairton gal and blog reader Dorothy Lancaster Smoyer sent me the following email obituary that sums it up:

“Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; Why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and Maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place: Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

He declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sunscreen or an Aspirin to a student.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when a burglar could sue you for assault while defending yourself.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, sued the restaurant, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; by his wife, Discretion; by his daughter, Responsibility and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers:
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Its Not My Faut
I am a Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.”

Common sense leaves a legacy that is the lifeline of all the fine people who made
Clairton one of America’s most livable cities. Learning from failure can help restore it.

A little blogging music Maestro... “My Little Town” by Simon and Garfunkel.

Dr. Forgot

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