Most visitors to my office have probably seen a framed quotation on the wall containing the following:
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
That quotation is from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States and winner of the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize. In the speech, President Roosevelt points out that it is not the opinion of the critic that counts, the one that points out someone else’s failures or ways that something could have been done better. But instead, it is actually the one “in the arena” who tries and tries again and gets past defeats, whose efforts are worthy.
In sales, just like many other professions where we depend on our own performance for success, we have failures every day. However, whether or not the entire day is a failure is completely up to you. What I mean is this, you might fail to get a sale – or even a single appointment – after an entire day on the job. If that happens when you have pounded the phone or made presentations for which you were completely prepared, then, over time that day will just fall into the “checkered by failure” category among your many victories. If, however, you fail in a day without making the number of calls you know you need to make or being unprepared for your presentations, then you can neither win nor lose because you didn’t play. You simply failed.
Wow. Pretty deep. But there is more to the story about the plaque on my wall.
In 1987, I hired a young lady to put the Roosevelt quotation on a document suitable for a wall hanging using calligraphy. Since she had just finished her calligraphy classes, she felt that she was not qualified to do an important piece. I asked her to give it a try and she returned the framed project in about a week. The work was nicely done and I paid her the fee.
The next day, after looking at the piece on the wall, I noticed that she had spelled President Roosevelt’s first name “Theadore.” When I pointed this out to her, she cried and felt very bad, which was not the point of my call. I merely wanted to have it changed.
As she was almost inconsolable, I finally asked her if she had even read the quotation. She admitted that she had not really paid that much attention to it, other than the quality of the letters. I asked her to read it and she finally got the “checkered by failure” thing. When I asked her if she tried really hard to make the project perfect, she said that she had and I suggested that that was a victory because she “went for it” on a project that she felt under qualified for. I also told her that the project otherwise looked great. She pointed out that the piece would no longer look perfect from a lettering standpoint when she changed the “a” to an “o.”
I told her that would give me something to talk about for years.
And so it has.
~ Jerry Cox, Brainier Solutions President