The Constitution of Greatness

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

~ Winston Churchill

There is much to offer in reading the biographies of the great men and women of the world. History should be seen as a guide for the future; human beings, as much as we are unique, are quite similar and predictable in our actions and are therefore easily controlled. The human species has been able to flourish not simply because of our supreme cognitive abilities, but also because we are all essentially one in the same, allowing us to find common ground and understand the struggles of one another. The genetic make up of my own being is for the most part identical to that of your own; the difference genetically between individuals is estimated to be around 0.1%. This applies to other species as well; through our genetic lineage, we can see how it is possible that the behaviours exhibited in a chimpanzee are similar to that of our own. And in turn, there are innate traits that are present in each and every one of us.

So what is it that separates the great individuals of history from their unexceptional contemporaries? I think the answer, in short, is failure. Not the failure itself, but the process of failure, and how one reacts to it. Something we will inevitably have in common with these great people throughout life is a vast amount of failures, often times self-inflicted. What separates them from the pack — and facilitated their immortalization — is their triumph of failure. There is exponentially more to learn from in a failure than a victory. Thomas Edison once said “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that do not work.”. Indeed, he designed several thousands of theoretical light bulbs in his quest to perfect the light bulb; he is now known as America’s greatest inventor. This finding is beyond reassuring. One should almost look to seek out failure, in the belief that if one is bestowed a hardship, its overcoming will result in the forging of a better self. Do not shy away from the tribulations of life. Embrace them, overcome them, and you will become the great man or woman you aspire to be.


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