The Failure Quotient

How many tries will it take you to succeed? 100 reasons to never give up.

The president of my college gave the best speech any luminary ever could have at my graduation. Addressing the hundreds of students, he said that now that we were graduating, our success in life no longer depended on our I.Q., but rather on our F.Q.-our Failure Quotient; how many times we could be knocked down but keep getting back up and slowly moving forward.

I don't know if any of my fellow graduates remembered those words, but I never forgot them. I have seen over and over again in my life and in the lives of others how a high F.Q. is the key to success.the one factor that all people of accomplishment have in common.

Having a high Failure Quotient is a paradox; we aren't accustomed to equating failure with success. When we think of super-winners or super-successful people-whether they be superstar athletes like Michael Jordan, renowned politicians like Rudy Giuliani, or famed entrepreneurs like Ross Perot or Walt Disney-we usually think of them in the lap of luxury, at the top of the world, and at the height of ease and power.

Yet Michael Jordan is known as the greatest basketball player of all time for one thing: his ability to "turn on" in the fourth quarter; not the first, second or third quarter, mind you. But in the fourth quarter, when his team is often down, when things are most crucial, and when lesser players in sports-and more passive people in life-are ready to throw in the towel.


Everyone knows Rudy Giuliani as one the heroes of September 11th, the man who mobilized his city, and lifted our country and the world up out of the grip of fear surrounding one of the most traumatic events in history. Few people remember that just a short time before September 11, 2001, Rudy Giuliani's future had been discounted. He had to withdraw from the New York Senate race because of a diagnosis of prostate cancer. This was followed by a very public and messy divorce splashed across every newspaper column in the country and jibed at by every radio and T.V. talk show host on air.

Now ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 100, at what level is Rudy Giuliani's Failure Quotient? How about Michael Jordan's? And most importantly, how about yours?

When we get a rejection or have a setback, it's very hard not to feel at least momentarily thrown off course. Yet I believe that a major benefit people receive who have gone through difficult life challenges is that no matter what other daily challenge they face, they can measure it against the larger life adversity they've overcome, and put it into its proper perspective. Whether you've been through a serious illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, or have been a victim of violence, the rest of your life you can benefit by using that experience to weigh everything else you face against it.

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Michael Norwood
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