A Bobcat and The Way to Success


I spent a few days last week at my favorite hideout in a corner of Point Reyes National Seashore. One afternoon I woke up from a nap with the uneasy feeling I was being watched. Outside my room’s sliding glass door a bobcat was staring right at me, or so I thought. Then I noticed the movement of earth.

A mole was making its way to the surface – the real object of the bobcat’s attention and ultimate goal – dinner. In the next few minutes I got to witness what absolute focus and clarity of purpose looks like. The bobcat moved so slow it was like watching freeze frames. It moved like that till it stood over the little mole hill. Then it arched its back in a perfect yoga cat pose. Next, with the speed of light its head disappeared into the ground. By now I’m standing, mesmerized by this little drama. Did it achieve its goal? Did it get its dinner? Or…. bummer no deal. The bobcat failed in its effort. It looked right, it looked left perhaps to assure that its failure went unnoticed and slinked off behind a bush. I’m sure it eventually succeeded because a bobcat doesn’t resign to its failures.

The only real failure for this bobcat would be if it failed to try again. Our furry friends are great teachers that way. They don’t wake up one morning and think well today I’m going to play it safe, I’m not going to stick my neck out and take a chance that I’m going to fail. I’m tired of disappointments, I cannot cope with them today. A bobcat’s only option is to succeed.

Do you avoid the prospect of failure? You try something and it fails. And yes, failing is no fun. It is impossible to live your life without failing at something. Unless you live so cautiously and only stick to doing what you know very well. Perhaps you won’t fail but you stagnate and not live your life to its fullest which is a form of failure. You can stagnate and go sideways like that for years and years. You’d be stuck in a corner of mediocrity. You settle for things going reasonably well, but not spectacularly well. The reason mediocrity is worse than failure is very simple: Failure lets you move on, mediocrity stalls you and keeps you from reaching your potential.

When you’re crystal clear on what you want, why you want it and have a path carved out to get you there no matter what then, in order to succeed, you have to be willing to take risks. When you’re willing to take risks then failure is simply a byproduct, a step towards getting closer to knowing what to do (or not to do) to succeed. Remember Thomas Edison who discovered 10,000 ways that didn’t work before he produced his light bulb. He didn’t feel he failed or became discouraged. He saw every failed attempt as another step forward.

Remember, next time you have a choice to try something you might fail at and decide to play it safe, you rob yourself of experiencing your life to its fullest which includes the highs of joy and the lows of suffering. True failure is a sign of accomplishment in the sense that something new and different was tried. Failure is the foundation for truly knowing and appreciating the level of joy you create in your life and work. The fastest way to success is through learning from your failures.

It’s amazing how much you can learn from others by sharing your failures. Usually you discover that you have company and you share the same experience with others who have failed and learned (or not yet) in similar ways. The more transparent you are and willing to risk sharing, the faster you will move towards what you want in your life and your work.

What have you learned from your failures? I encourage you to share on my blog.


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4 Responses to A Bobcat and The Way to Success

  1. Failure, how frustrating and even humiliating! But how important in the big scheme of things! With it, I have learned patience. With it, I have learned that, if I really want what I didn’t get, it’s my opportunity to re-clarify my goals and review my action strategy.

    • Ellen van den Berg

      Thanks Jeannie for your comments. So true, it all comes back to clarity of purpose to inspire and motivate to get up and try and again.

  2. mimi lemanski

    That is so true. I was listening to NPR and several very successful CEOs were talking about how their failures really helped them to succeed. In two cases they had to actually close their business due to lack of money. They learned a lot from their failures though and went on to become very, very successful.

    • Ellen van den Berg

      Sometimes learning what NOT to do can be more or as important as learning what to do.

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