I want to talk to you about coming back from adversity, about not giving up, about rejecting rejection. Today I hope today is a great day in your life. And you're feeling wonderful, like you could conquer the world. And you should feel that way. I wish you would feel that way everyday. But one of these days, not too far into the future, there will be a time when you are going to have a setback. You may even fail. That's what I'm going to discuss now.
Do you know one thing that I have never failed at? I have never been defeated in tournament chess. Considering the fact that I love chess, and that I've read every contemporary book on the subject, I believe that's a great achievement. Don't you agree? The reason I have never lost in tournament chess is that I have never had the guts to compete.
That's the way it is in life. Only those people who try something run the risk of failing. The main choice that most of us will make in our lifetime is at what level we will experience failure. Some of us make major league errors. Some of us make minor league errors. Some of us make no errors whatsoever because we don't even play the game. If you are able to satisfy your self by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing, then my friend, I can guarantee you will never fail at anything.
Consider when you were a baby. It was the first time for you to take your first step. I know you don't remember your first step. If you had asked your parents, they could tell you all about It. Let me remind you what happened. One day there was something in you that said, "I think I'll take this diapered bottom off the floor and try to walk. You raised yourself up and tried to take a step. And what happened? You fell down. You failed, but you didn't quit. Something made you get back up and you took another step. You tried again, and maybe you fell down a second or third time. That's the way you learn to do anything in life. Whether it's lifting weights, catching a baseball, playing a musical instrument, learning to add, or how to work a computer, you learn by trial and error.
Let me tell you a story. There once was a young man who wanted more than anything in the world to be a good basketball player. This was his dream. He worked at it as hard as any human being worked at anything, trying to develop his skills. Sadly enough, he didn't make first cut. The next year, he tried again, to no avail. He went home to his room and cried his eyes out. Though he had been rejected twice, he would not quit. He said his experience of having been cut taught him how to handle rejection in his adult years. He worked harder than ever on his skills. He not only became the greatest basketball player who ever lived, he also handled the fame with grace and dignity that has transcended sports and made Michael Jordan a household name.
Here's another story about a young man who wanted to become a politician. As a young man, he ran for office and lost. He ran again and was defeated a second and third time. This man ran for office 15 times and was elected only three times. But thank goodness those last two times Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Think of what this county's and the world's state of affairs would be if he accepted defeat early on.
There once was a woman who wanted to be a writer. After she would put her children to bed each night, she would stay up to write. She put together her first novel and sent it to several publishers only to face rejection. Today, Toni Morrison is one of the best selling authors in the world. She won a Pulitzer Prize, and her face on the cover of Newsweek.
Here's another anecdote about a young man who dropped out of school after the eighth grade. In his early twenties, he went to prison for six and a half years for burglary. However, he hungered to better himself. While in prison, he copied the entire dictionary in his quest to improve his mind. Once out of prison, his life was still filled with frustration Gradually, he took his place in history. His name was Malcolm X. Because Malcolm rejected failure, he changed the lives of so many people.
This next story I wish to share is about a 17-year-old exceptional athlete. He had an intense desire to obtain a career in either soccer or hockey. His real dream was to be a professional hockey player. When he tried out for a team, they told him, "You don't weigh enough. You're 50 pounds plus lighter than the average player". Wayne Gretzky didn't let rejection deter him from becoming one of the greatest hockey players of all time.
This story is of a man who was born a slave. When he was a baby slave traders kidnapped him. During his young life, he was in poor health. Once the civil war ended, headed to the Midwest. While there, he harvested wheat, cut wood, and worked at whatever job he could. He also attended school whenever possible. He was determined to get an education. He completed high school at the age of 27. He then was accepted to a small Midwest college only to be told to leave when he got there. They college officials said, "No! We can't take you in." He was 3 years old before he ever became a college freshman, but finished at the top of his class. He was the first African American graduate from Iowa State to become internationally known as an expert in plant chemistry. He was admitted as a fellow In the Royal Society in Great Britain. Here In the United States he was the first African American to have a Federal Monument constructed to commemorate, his life. His name was George Washington Carver.
Let me give you one more example while I'm on the subject of Great Britain. When he was 1 years old, his teacher sent home his report card to his parents, which read, "Shows a conspicuous lack of success." That young man was Winston Churchill, one of the great men of the 20th Century. Years later his high school invited him back make a speech to a graduating class. He gave the best graduation speech I ever heard. All he said was "never give up, never give up, never give up." Then he sat back down.
As I mentioned earlier, life may be great for you right now, and should be. You earned it. However there will be times during your life when you are going to feel disappointed. There are going to be times when your dreams are shattered, and times when someone may reject you. When that happens, remember that each of us can reject the rejection. And that, my friend, from a man who has frequently been rejected, is good news indeed. God bless you.