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How ordinary people overcame their failures
Shilpa Shet
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September 07, 2007

Different people measure success differently. While some may define success as the number of cars a person has, others see it simply as a steady job that pays the bills. Whatever the definition, most people shudder to think of themselves as a failure.

Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the light bulb and 100 other inventions once said of his failures, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  To top that when he was a youngster, his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything. He was counseled to go into a field where he might succeed by virtue of his pleasant personality.

Bill Gates [Images], one of the most successful men of our times too went through tough times. In retrospect he says, "It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure."

A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney [Images] because he "lacked imagination and had no original ideas".

The list of people who succeeded after failures is long. However, great success doesn't happen to everyone. Twenty-eight-year-old Hemant Sabnis says success eluded him for almost 10 years.

"I tried for many jobs but could not get any," recollects the engineering graduate. "I was absolutely fed up. I must have sent out thousands of applications. I even got selected for a few interviews. And then something would go wrong. Either my qualification was a problem; sometimes even my body language was a problem."

He remembers the times when he was so down in the dumps that he refused to meet people. "I would avoid my friends. I stopped going out," he reminisces, "Nothing interested me. I had almost lost all faith in myself."

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What then salvaged this young man? His father's trust in him. "My father is retired. He had a lot of aspirations from my sister and me. I realised that I wasn't being able to fulfill his wishes. That hurt even more than not being able to land a job," he adds. 

Then came a time that seeing his son morose saddened the father. "He told me that it was okay if I did not have a job. He was more hurt that I was depressed. It was then that I decided to give it one more shot," he says.

This time around the circumstances were the same but Hemant's outlook had changed. He was now more positive. "I decided to try a different approach at interviews. I read up on how to be more jovial and smiled through my interviews," he says. 

And after three tries he was successful. He now works as a junior engineer in an iron moldings factory in Kolhapur. "I know the path ahead of me now. I also know there are a lot of people like me out there. I want to tell them that they need to have faith in themselves first. Things will eventually fall in place," he smiles. 

When the going gets tough

Vikas Bhande* from Mumbai has a similar tale to tell. Vikas was born into a poor family where his mother, the sole breadwinner, was employed as a maid. He recollects days when they had little or no food. "For years my mother did people's dishes and scrubbed people's floors," says this spunky 25-year-old, "Her aim was to provide education for all three of us. My other siblings though didn't study too far."

Vikas was always interested in studies. However, one incident changed the purpose of his entire life. That was in his fifth standard. "I failed my exam in the fifth standard," he recollects, "My brother and sister had already made it clear that they are not going to study. My mother was very upset. She had pinned her hopes on me and I had let her down."

His mother cried that entire night and prayed to god. "I always thought my mother was strong. I had seen her smile through the toughest of situations," he remembers, "When I saw her cry like that, I realised I had disappointed her. I was ashamed of myself."

That's when he decided to change the tide. "I studied very hard the next year and came third," he smiles. Since then there was no looking back.

He studied diligently even through their tough times. "Trouble began when I reached higher classes and my expenses started mounting. When I passed my tenth my mother's employees decided to sponsor my education. That's how I completed my education," he recollects.

While pursuing his own studies, Vikas realised he could supplement the family income by taking tuitions. "I started taking tuitions. I saved up and did a course in networking," he recollects, "Today I have my own little business where I look after networks of small companies. I have even hired two people."

His mother stopped working when Vikas' tuitions were enough to cover family expenses. Today with her only daughter married and her two sons taking care of her needs, Vikas says she has little to complain of.

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Ask him how he did it? "After my first failure, I never had time to think or cry over my situation," he recollects, "I knew I had to get my mother out of other's homes. There was nothing else on my mind."

Secret ingredients

These two stories probably do not warrant a bravery award. Yet these two brave men teach you a lot about failure.

Here are some life lessons to learn from them:

*Names changed to protect privacy

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