Only PeoPle whO Stop tryIng geT somEwhere in life

Caution: this is no ordinary post. (Hint: try to decode the title.)

At the first sign of opposition, it is best to retreat to protect yourself from harm. Whenever we meet resistance, doesn’t it mean we are wrong for trying to go in that direction? If it doesn’t go perfectly, it isn’t worth even attempting in the first place.

The world is set up to reward those who take the path of least resistance. All of the greatest men and women of history are lauded for taking the expected path. And how did they reach their lofty goals? By giving up when things became difficult and trying something else instead, obviously.

We need to avoid failure at all costs.

I know that I’ve been most proud when I’ve had a great idea, started to do something about it, and then quit when I didn’t see gratifying results immediately. I probably saved myself from failing!

“Those who fail have taken the wrong path.” ~ Lost Chinese Proverb

It is safe to say that anything worth going for is going to be so easy that a caveman can do it on the first try. Anything harder than that is a waste of time. What kind of idiot tries to do something after botching the first attempt?

It would be terrible to fail once, let alone 1,000 times like Thomas Edison did when trying to invent the light bulb.  My goodness, that had to have been embarrassing. He got the light bulb to work eventually, but who cares? Everyone still sees him as a failure overall.

Just think – there were millions of other men who didn’t fail nearly as often as Thomas Edison. They lived safe, comfortable lives and were rarely embarrassed. I bet there were some that didn’t even talk to people because they were afraid of saying something unintelligent. That’s the way to do it! Edison was such a fool to fail so often, wasn’t he?

Oh how I dream of never failing ever again. I might fail a few times just doing required things like walking to the bathroom. My hip could graze the wall on my way in or something – but I hope nobody sees me if that does happen. That would be devastating to my carefully crafted self-image.

The worst of these failures are the ones that get rejected repeatedly and keep persisting. Guys like Sylvester Stallone…

Sylvester Stallone

Sly had a really rough life growing up and as an adult. The lower left side of his face has been paralyzed since birth. As an adult living on the street for several days, he took a role in a pornography film for $200. Stallone said of the film,

“It was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end, the very end of my rope.”

He failed even more after that. The lowest point of his life was when he sold his dog (and best friend) for $25. He should have given up, right?

Well, a few weeks passed and he watched a boxing match – Muhammad Ali vs. Chuck Wepner. Being crazy and wanting to fail more in life, he wrote a script for a film called “Rocky” in three days. Of course, the script was rejected repeatedly. Man, this guy couldn’t get enough failure.

After many rejections, two guys he talked to liked the script and offered him $125,000 for it. Take the money and run, right? No…Sly Stallone wanted to star in the film (and they did not want him to). So they offered more money with the condition that he didn’t star in the movie.

First $250,000. No.

Then $325,000. No.

Stallone insisted he star in the film because he said it was his story. They saw they weren’t going to budge him, so they offered him a measly $35,000 (vs. $350,000), a tiny budget, the leading role in the film, and a share of the profits. Stallone took it.

This was another failure of course – he got one tenth of what he could have gotten. He let passion get in the way of greed. Then he went and paid $15,000 to buy his dog back.

This guy failed more in a year than most of us do in a lifetime.

Oh yeah, that Rocky film did end up making over $200,000,000 at the box office and spawned sequels that have brought the series total to well over $1 billion.

I mean, I guess you could call that a success, but what about all that failure in his life before that? Doesn’t that…ruin it or something?

The Truth

The title of this post is encrypted (it isn’t CIA level or anything, don’t worry). I wanted to try a new way of presenting something we all know (something I’ve written about before. Why? Sometimes we get stuck and we think about concepts in the same way – but when you’re forced to look at it in a new way, the concept can become new to you.

We all know that failure and perseverance are extremely important, but that doesn’t mean we believe it and have a deep understanding of it (like Sly does). Something else interesting I’ve noticed is that often times we are more passionate about things we disagree with. So I decided to play the role of the idiot in this article – and point out how absurd and irresponsible it is to avoid failure at the level many of us do (myself included).

If you don’t engage in short-term failure, you will be a long-term failure. Persevere through those failures, and you will find your way. You don’t have to take my word for it. How about the guy who has been through it all?

“I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”

I think that gravity sets into everything, including careers, but pendulums do swing and mountains do become valleys after a while… if you keep on walking.

~ Sylvester Stallone

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Kelly Gloss


took me forever to get it

I totally love this idea.

Thanks for sharing the story of Sylvester Stallone. Where did you learn about him? This is fascinating.

Stephen Guise

Hi Glossary,

Well done on the decoding work! I wasn’t sure how much to give away. I wonder how many people will completely miss the point of the first 80% of the article being opposite. 😛

I did some research on the web. His story is definitely interesting!


Great perspective. There’s been a lot written about failure being a necessity for success. This was a nice refreshing look at well documented subject. Nice job.

Douglas Prater

You mean, we might not achieve fame and glory overnight? We might actually have to work to overcome adversity along the way? We might skin our knees in the process? That’s horrible! We should all just turtle up and protect ourselves. It’s a colossal waste of time to even try. In fact, I’m giving up right now. Thanks a lot.

It takes talent to write sarcastically while conveying an inspirational message. Well done, sir. 🙂

Justin | Spiritual Development

Hey Stephen,
Did you know that they wanted the actor Ryan O’Neal to play Rocky instead of Sly? When we feel from the heart that we must do something nothing will ever get in our way. Stallone is an example of persistence and never giving up.

Archan Mehta

Brilliant post, Stephen, and thank you for sharing it here. You had an ace up your sleeve.

I am familiar with the story of Sylvester Stallone, but not the entire story. Stallone is a great example. I found “Rocky” to be an inspirational movie. Tony Robbins refers to it too.

Today, Stallone is a wealthy man: he is known all over the world. However, he is still quite self-reliant and prefers to carry his own luggage and do his own thing. It is not a loner’s temperament, but the mindset of a person who likes autonomy, independence and is a rugged individualist. Success or failure, Stallone has known how to roll with the punches.

Personally, however, I think success and failure are illusions. According to Rudyard Kipling, success and failure are imposters–ref: read his poem “If”, which is available on-line. What matters is to stay engaged with the process. When you are process-oriented, you just keep on trying. If you fall off your horse, you just pick yourself up and get back in the game and ride your horse. You don’t worry about success or failure because you honor the process.

I find this most often among children, who are not worried about success and failure. These words don’t mean anything to children. They are just having the flow experience and approach their work in a spirit of play. When you play, there is no beginning and no end–you are in a different state of consciousness. I think we adults are too self-conscious and create our own prison by believing in success and failure. If you are action-oriented, why bother about semantics? After all, language can liberate as much as it can imprison. Cheers.

Stephen Guise

Thanks Dave! I like to experiment.

Stephen Guise

Haha, you definitely need to give up Douglas – you don’t want to end up like those failures Edison and Stallone. 🙂

Stephen Guise

Hi Justin,

No, I didn’t know what actor they wanted instead – just that they didn’t want Stallone because he was unproven. I think that things will still get in our way, but we’ll find a way around them (or through them!).

Stephen Guise

Greetings Archan,

You brought up a great point there! I have two definitions of success – the one that the world uses (financial wealth/power/influence, etc) and the one you’re describing.

I like what you said about the process. I think that resonates with my previous post on curiosity – because they both focus on something external of success/failure. We also have to question if success is really so great after all. Happiness and contentment are far more important.

Children have a lot of admirable qualities that they grow out of when they “mature.” You make another great point about semantics and being action-oriented. Language is something that can hinder us. If we can only think in terms of English for example, we’re missing out on all of the things that language cannot describe!

Riley Harrison

Well you got me going on this one. Luckily I read the entire post before I responded.
Yep failure is part of the formula for success. If you never fail it just means you aren’t doing anything new. And if you aren’t doing anything new you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to live a full life.

Stephen Guise

Haha, you were going to tear into me, eh? 😀 I was wondering about the “risk” of posting something like this. It seems that most people caught on to what in the world was going on though.

I concur with your thoughts Riley. It is a goal of mine to get used to failing.

Scrollwork: Quirkyisms from a Tropical Transplant

Wise Guise, I miss the picture of you during your Medieval warrior days. That new avatar of yours misleads new readers into thinking you’re a regular guy. We know you are anything but. Please don’t pull the hang gliding pic. There’s something Borat-ish about your expression in it.

From your lead sentence I knew you were pulling reverse psychology on us…but that’s probably because I’ve stalked you and your comments elsewhere.

The thing that stands out most about this post is that you were willing to play the idiot to pull the so-so blinders off people. Only someone confident in his own intelligence is willing to take on that role. Reminds me of a series I posted on how a fool, not an expert, is the better person to consult when you seek the truth.

Come have a virtual cup of tea with me, Borat. I know you’re a busy man, so much in demand, so you don’t even have to leave a comment. But at least you’ll get a sense of who your readers are.

Stephen Guise

haha, you can still get a medieval sample of me here! Oh my, I am very far from normal. I probably seem more normal than I am.

With a name like “Scrollwork: Quirkyisms from a Tropical Transplant”, I don’t suppose you are very normal either. 😀

Yeah, I debated the idea some (and someone did unsubscribe, lol), but I’m all for taking risks. I knew some people would appreciate the different perspective. I might even do it again in the future. It’s a whole new way of writing about something!

Borat? I think I’m look more like the actor Joseph Fiennes. By the way, I tried to have some tea with you at your blog a while back and lost in an epic battle with your comment system (I tried 4 times I think). Since I’m a medieval warrior, I’ll try again.


Hi Stephen,

What a brilliant post!!!

Told in a different way, your post says that serial entrepreneur is a way to go. Sylvestor Stallone must have really faced a lot of difficulties before he became so successful and he did it because he believed in his cause.

I also consider Richard Branson as one of the inspiring entrepreneurs. He failed so many times and achieved success later on. If you read his book , you can see how many times he faced crisis almost on the verge of closing( once he pushed a banker out of his house). The banker was about to close in the company in two days. He arranged money in one day.

I think your post is very inspiring to people who have been a failure sometimes ( like me 😉 and trying to work their way out.
I have tweeted and shared it . Thanks for writing this post 🙂

Stephen Guise



I really like the entrepreneur spirit – there is a lot of creativity, hard work, and failure involved. It seems the more difficult path, but the more rewarding one for me.

I honestly don’t know much about Richard Branson, though I’ve heard the name. Wow though, pushing a banker out of his house and arranging money in one day makes him sound like a very strong-willed and confident man! That’s a cool story.

I could like at entire aspects of my life and label myself a failure – but as someone once said (can’t remember!), you only fail when you give up. Otherwise, failure is short-term.

Thank you for sharing it!


Hi Stephen,

There was a video somewhere about it .. is a good one. Also you may read some books by him. Inspiring 🙂

Scrollwork: Quirkyisms from a Tropical Transplant

With a name like Smuckers…but it was taken.

Oh, OK, we’ll give you that, you do look more like Ralph Fiennes’ little bro. But note, I wrote Borat’s “expression,” — the poker-faced “I know I’m being a clown right now but I’m brilliant at it so there” look. Except in your case, minus the “so there” because you are so very nice.

Sorry ’bout the hounds on my blog! I’ve called them off and now I get lots more spam, but it’s worth it for the genuine comments that do come in. Thanks for the visit! Had so much fun. If you ever want to guest post, mi casa su casa. My readers will appreciate everything about you.


I’d like to put the case for the opposite. Sly’s movies follow a formula (he is not alone in this).

I prefer easy to hard. The purpose of learning I think is to make the hard easy.

It is smart to learn from others. Google solved a problem but they weren’t the first search engine by any means. They took what others had done and improved it. Being a smart and quick second is often the path to success – which is much easier than making all the mistakes of the first-timer yourself.

Trying new stuff is invaluable. But it is not the only value.

Stephen Guise

Hi Evan,

“I prefer easy to hard. The purpose of learning I think is to make the hard easy.”

My question to that is how you can expect to get everything right the first time and how you can learn without failing. I know you can learn a lot without failing (and believe me, I prefer this), but eventually you have to put yourself out there and work hard. Even following a proven path can fail.

Maybe there is a balance to strike between these two sides – learning everything you can from others and still trying new things. This is what I’m going for anyways. 🙂

One project I have planned is something that does not exist in the marketplace, but it is derived from something that does exist. So it is old and new in a way. It is an older idea in a new medium.


You can’t expect everything to go right the first time. Quite the reverse in my experience. But this is different to making something hard. The purpose of learning from our mistakes is to make things easier in my view.

Re-inventing the wheel is just silly. Much innovation is copying from nearby arenas. Henry Ford copied the production line from meat packing – I’m told the parts were initially even delivered on hooks.

I do think there are different arenas. New fields require lots of small experiments I think – eg the internet at the moment. The rules are still being written and no one is game to make many predictions – so we just have to try stuff. In more established fields it is easier to follow existing practise eg a playing musical instrument, oil painting, grocery retailing and so on.

The problem with advocating perseverance is that it has no end point. When is it just plain dumb to keep going? I think reflection and learning are more important than simple perseverance.

Stephen Guise

Thanks for your response. I think we need to clarify what we’re talking about though – personal or business?

I don’t advocate making things new or hard unless you’re talking about personal growth – because new experiences stretch you. For example, it is easier to sit and watch TV all day vs. exploring another country, but it certainly isn’t better.

If we’re talking business, then it is obviously better to take the easier path if it gets the same results.

Great point about the internet. It is such a dynamic platform and it is relatively new, so there isn’t a whole lot of precedent to go off of. I agree with you that it is best to follow established procedures for established fields – but new innovations could still be found there by mixing in new technology and ideas.

Well, pitting perseverance against reflecting and learning is a false dichotomy. We can and should do both of those at the same time. If we’re talking business though, then it isn’t always smart to persevere when your business has no real chance of success.

Perseverance could mean starting a new business after your old one failed with the things you’ve learned.


I’ve been reading a business book so this probably biased my examples. (Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank – it is excellent.)

My reply to your example is that there are easier and harder or riskier ways to explore another country.

I do think we have a natural desire to get better at what we care about. Playing a musical instrument, relating to our loved ones and so on. I think this increase in skill can be largely pleasurable and playful. In this case the work becomes play – although a disciplined and “workish” kind of play. In my view it is increased performance that is the point of being stretched.

Another point of being stretched is that it can be overdone – excessive demands or a threat usually mean people retreat to existing ways of doing things. This is usually not how breakthroughs or improvements are achieved.

I hope I’m not sounding that I want to be argumentative. For me these things have big implications for how we go about improving our lives. I often hear the stuff about being stretched as some kind of demand to perform better but this can lead to pressure which can get in the way of creativity.

I do think you are right that perseverance needs to go along with learning. Perhaps because I tend to persevere I’ve needed to learn the value of learning and so over-emphasised this.

Stephen Guise

No, I don’t see you as being argumentative.

Your perspective is interesting and I like it for the most part. Though I see it as being somewhat confining if everything has to be “play-like” and easy. Overall, I’m with you on the “play” over work philosophy. I wrote about that in my career guide.

I can perceive what you’re saying about too much emphasis on stretching being problematic (as if there is some requirement to be uncomfortable). I think it tends to be emphasized because most people never come close to the threshold of being overstretched and have the opposite problem (being stagnant).

From my perspective, there is just a slight difference in our view on this. I think it centers on if putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation is valuable or not. In my experience (primarily socially), it has been very beneficial for my personal development.

“I often hear the stuff about being stretched as some kind of demand to perform better but this can lead to pressure which can get in the way of creativity.”

That’s a great point. I wonder if that boils down to complacency vs. contentment. I see it like this:

If I’m complacent, I’m generally not content and believe there is a need to stretch myself. If I’m content, however, then I don’t see a need to dogmatically stretch myself.

Thanks for this great discussion Evan. People seem to really like that book (looking at Amazon reviews).


wow, I didn’t know Sylvestor Stallone’s story before and I’m totally inspired. I never noticed his face was paralyzed either. I like his quote at the end. Walking is such a great metaphor and to literally walk is living the metaphor.

That’s so sad he sold his dog for only $25!! And I’m impressed by his integrity not to take a lot of money.. But in the long run, what a bad deal!

Stephen Guise

Hello Janet!

You can see that his face is paralyzed if you pay attention when he speaks. I think it is kind of cool because it makes him different from all the other A-list stars out there. Actually, Tina Fey has a similar condition (I think the right side of her face is partially paralyzed).

I’m pretty sure it was a MUCH better deal! Did you notice I said that he got a portion of the profits in his deal with less money upfront? Well, 200 million dollars minus fees/royalties and the 1 million dollar cost to make the film leaves well over 100 million dollars. If he got, say just 1% of the cut (probably more), he’d make a million dollars from it (much better than a flat sum of $325,000 for the script).

Kelly Gloss

It looks like this has kind of gone viral for you (judging by audience interaction, at least) so I think it worked.

Here’s the takeaway that I’m applying from now on. There’s no such thing as new knowledge or new wisdom. There are only new ways to PRESENT these ideas.

Clearly, you’ve figured out how to make this work. To me, that’s really exciting.

Martyn Chamberlin

Oh and I forgot to add, I’m officially switching back to Martyn Chamberlin.

My general audience thought the Kelly idea was nifty, but the people who actually spend money with me were confused.

And I’m partial to people who spend money with me.

Stephen Guise

I wouldn’t say it went viral as the comments are in the typical range (higher end though). I see virality as being a lot of sharing and wider exposure.

As for your takeaway, I agree! There is also the possibility to combine ideas to make new ones (but even then it’s tough to come up with new ideas). Thanks Kelly!

It’s good to have you back. 🙂 Yeah, the people who spend money with you deserve a leg up on the rest’v’us.


I like your distinction between complacency and contentment very much.

digital world

haha. I knew it would end up this way. In the starting i was confused. But by the time you reached the line “Edison was such a fool to fail so often, wasn’t he?” i was sure:D

Anyway great idea, this is the definition of original:)

Martyn Chamberlin

Oh fiddlesticks. You’re being awful strict in your definition of “viral.” According to that use of the term, I have yet to write ANYTHING that went viral.

For most of us, getting two retweets is going viral.

By the way, this is my favorite line of your blog of all time:

My hip could graze the wall on my way in or something.

That’s just so hilarious, I’m not sure why.

Hugo Martins

I see that failure is a topic you like to discuss and that’s great. Discussing and analyzing failure is one of the best things we can do with our lives, it is the only thing that helps us evolving and progressing.

Analyzing the successes will, of course, help too but understanding what went wrong and never repeat it again is one of the best lessons you can learn for yourself. You expose yourself to a lot of possible failures because you are always trying to be original and I really like that.

As we both know, failure is mostly a granted event so you might as well face it and try again if you indeed fail.


Stephen Guise

Fiddlesticks is so underused these days. Thank you.

If this is viral, then what is Jon Morrow’s post that got 5,000 Facebook likes?

Haha, yeah…I like subtle humor like that. 🙂

Stephen Guise

Thank you. This is the thinking blog, so I can’t make it too easy. 😀

Stephen Guise

Honestly, I’ve been writing about it too much lately. It has been on my mind a lot, but I have some topics of great interest that I’ve barely touched on (health, finances). I just keep getting drawn back into it somehow! It is extremely important – maybe that’s why?

Being original is important to me – and it mainly entails not trying to follow an expected route (like always writing in one way or tone) because that’s a confining box.

Thanks for your thoughts Hugo (aka Caramelo). 🙂

Hugo Martins

Yes, I believe the reason you are writing too much about it is because it really is important. It is one of the best lessons you can learn in life but also one of the hardest to learn.

Haha Caramelo is actually one of my surnames 😛

Stephen Guise

You’re right, it is certainly of great importance.

Oh ok, I understand now! 😛


Got the point. I’m always often afraid to fail and this has cost me a lot, but from now on, I’m taking a different course (not to be afraid of failure!)
Thanks for the motivation.

Stephen Guise

You’re welcome Ayodeji. I wish you great failure (and success)! Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

Stephen Guise

I actually did notice that you said “expression” and it didn’t register for some reason. Well, I appreciate the invitation. I’ll let you know, but I am focusing on “big” guest posts for the time being (such as Problogger, who gets more traffic in an hour than I do in a month :-D).


I believe that life is all lessons. Oppositions are nothing more than an experience not belonging to our expectations, and naturally most of us try to evade. But the beauty and grandeur of life can only be experience if we learn to open ourselves to the unknown and the uncomfortable. 🙂

Stephen Guise

Hi Walter,

What you said about experience not meeting our expectations was quite brilliant! I think that’s absolutely true about “roadblocks” in life. I agree that the unknown and uncomfortable are downright exciting sometimes. Thanks for your thoughts!

Vikk Simmons

There are no guarantees so it helps to couple perseverance with passion. It took me 13 years to land a book contract while friends around me published and published. But I got there. You just have to want it.

Stephen Guise

That’s amazing perseverance Vikk. I am seriously impressed and happy for you. I imagine that had to have been so rewarding for you after the long wait.

Thesis Writing

Very nice information shared by you. I was just searching this type of information and luckily I got it from your blog. I like your blog also. Keep it up.


I almost told you that you were a moron…then I finished the article.


I just sold my dog. My wife says I missed the point =(

Stephen Guise

Hahaha, thank you for finishing it. 😀

Stephen Guise


As long as you buy your dog back later for a lot more money, you should end up fine?

Nick Grimshawe

I started laughing as soon as I started to read the article and I knew where you were going with it but you make a huge and valid point. We get stuck in worn path ways. They are just as deep in our brain as the deep ruts in a well traveled road. Breaking the habit of thinking is important and your exercise did that brilliantly.

Now I need to go back to my place and see what I can craft to shake up my own thinking.

Awesome lesson.



Stephen Guise

Great Nick. I hope that goes well for you. What you said made me think of how neural pathways actually do get stronger with repeated use. It’s definitely good to carve out new thought patterns to enhance your mind and break through mediocrity.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Dan Tredo

Great job at turning the bag inside out. The familiar can be soooo familiar it loses its significance. “Oh yea…I already know that”. “Oh yea…I read that before”. Knowledge is worthless unless lived. Otherwise it just rots and builds up useless pride. Great post.

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