July 10, 2016

Failure: The Stepping Stone to Success, part 3

Some people are born into a life of luxury and ease. Others never know “the good life”, but they are content spending their days living an average existence. These types of people don’t want to rock the boat. However, a few strong individuals are willing to do whatever it takes to push beyond the comfortable, but mundane, life with which most of us are familiar.

The fact is that leaving our area of comfort is never easy. In fact, it can be a clear road to rejection. However, there is often a reward for taking the risk: success and a stronger personality.

 “Rejection is an imperative test of one’s character.”  This is one of my favorite quotes from the article, “Best-Sellers Initially Rejected” on Literaryrejections.com. I highlighted parts of this piece in a recent article. Today, I’d like to focus on eleven more examples of writers who overcame the odds mentioned in the post. (Some of the information is from my own knowledge.):

“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift the book above the ‘curiosity’ level,” was said about The Diary of Anne Frank. The book was rejected 15 times, but it was finally picked up by Doubleday. It has now sold over 25 million copies.
 “A long, dull novel about an artist” was said about Irving Stone’s Lust for Life, the novel based on the life of the brilliant, but mentally unstable, artist, Vincent Van Gogh. It has now sold over 25 million copies.  In addition, it was made into a movie starring Kirk Douglas in 1956.
Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire saga, Twilight, was rejected by 14 consecutive agencies. 17 million copies have now been sold, and it spent 91 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Need I mention the movie? If you’re an American teen, you know it and/or love it.
 “An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull,” said one publisher. This was referring to current English-class staple, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It has now topped 15 million in sales.
“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature,” stated a publisher about L. Frank Baum’s iconic The Wizard of Oz. This classic has now sold over 15 million. Additionally, the book was made into an iconic movie starring Judy Garland in 1939. It’s plain to see that Baum has followed “the yellow brick road “into the hearts of generations of children.
Five London publishers turned down Yann Martel’s 2001 novel, Life of Pi. The novel was made into a blockbuster movie in 2012 with the following statistics: nominated for three Golden Globe awards, won one; nominated for 11 Academy Awards, won four; earned over $609 million. In addition, the book won the Man Booker Prize in 2002.  (That’s an award in the UK.)
“An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book,’” is a contemporary publisher’s quote about H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, written in 1898. In 1938, it was the subject of radio broadcast by Orson Wells. The material was taken so seriously that it sent some Americans into an immediate panic about an imminent alien invasion. In 2005, the novel was adapted into a movie starring A-listers Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning.
Poet T.S. Eliot, as head of publishing house Faber & Faber, rejected George Orwell’s Animal Farm because of its politics. Secker & Warburg eventually published it. It is now considered a classic, and a mainstay of high-school American English classes.
“An absurd story as romance, melodrama, or record of New York high life,” was an industry professional’s opinion about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s anthem to his own self-seeking Jazz-age society: The Great Gatsby. You’ve never read it, or at least heard about it? Then, you’ve never been a high-school student in America.
Louisa May Alcott, reserved author of Little Women, was told to “stick to teaching”.
Mary Shelley, wife of well-known English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, had a tough time selling Frankenstein. She was only 21 years old when 500 copies were first printed. Only 25 of those copies were sold. The second edition didn’t fare much better. She didn’t have any true sales until the publication of the third edition.

Temporary Storms in The Bible

Mark 4: 35-41 is the story of Jesus calming the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The storm was so horrific that the apostles thought they were going to die. They were “failing” in the midst of one of the sudden tempests typical to that body of water. The disciples woke the sleeping Jesus up in an absolute panic.  Jesus asked why they were afraid and calmed the winds with only three words (in English): “Peace, be still.” The winds immediately died down, and the boat reached the other shore safely.

My Conclusion

It’s hard to keep up faith when life throws up so many roadblocks. Victory rarely comes in the form, or at the time, that we prefer.  The good news is that storms/trials/failures don’t last forever. That’s often hard to believe when we’re going through them, though. In the meantime, we can all learn from productive individuals who refuse to accept the defeat of their dreams.

Related Posts

Please see more about people who pushed through ridiculous odds in my book, Accept No Trash Talk: Overcoming the Odds.

How have you refused to accept “No” as an answer to fulfilling your desires?

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