In his book The War of Art
, author Steven Pressfield writes “Nothing is as empowering as real-world validation, even if it’s for failure.”
Pressfield shares the following story about one of his own failures to illustrate this lesson.
His first professional writing job, after seventeen years of trying, was for a movie called King Kong Lives. Pressfield and his partner on the movie, Ron Shusett, created the screenplay for the acclaimed director Dino DiLaurentiis.
Pressfield and Shusett were certain they had a blockbuster, and invited everyone they knew to the premiere. They even rented out the place next door for the triumphant after-party: “Get there early, we warned our friends, the place’ll be mobbed.“
But nobody came.
Pressfield remembers one guy who was standing in line beside their guests, but he was muttering something about spare change. In the theater, Pressfield and Shusett’s friends endured the movie “in mute stupefaction,” and when it was over, “they fled like cockroaches into the night.”
The next day, a review of the movie in Variety magazine dealt a further blow: “… Ronald Shusett and Steven Pressfield; we hope these are not their real names, for their parents’ sake.”
They were crushed.
As Pressfield tells it: here he was, forty-two years old, divorced, childless, having given up all normal pursuits to chase the dream of being a writer. He finally had his name attached to a big-time Hollywood production, and he blew it: “I’m a loser, a phony; my life was worthless, and so am I.”
But one of Pressfield’s friends snapped him out of it by asking if he was going to quit.
Pressfield’s answer was “Hell, no!”
His friend continued: “Then be happy. You’re where you wanted to be, aren’t you? So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.”
That’s when Pressfield realized that he had become a professional. He didn’t yet have a success, but he’d had a real failure.