Dita Von Teese became the biggest name in burlesque, decades after the trend had gone out of fashion. Known as the “Queen of Burlesque,” Von Teese is credited with bringing the art form back into fashion across the world.
But before she started a worldwide cultural movement, she had a very different dream — to be a professional ballet dancer. Alas, it was not to be; still, her greatest failure in ballet would eventually lead her to greatness in something else.
She began taking ballet lessons early — all the greats started in childhood. She was good, perhaps even great. She practiced religiously. She hired coaches and trainers. She even cleaned the dirty studio bathroom in exchange for lessons.
But after nearly 10 years of practice, she began to realize a harsh reality — she’d never be able to go pro. She simply couldn’t do many of the jumps, twists, and turns, no matter how hard she tried.
At first, her shortcomings crushed her — this was her dream ever since she was a child. What else was she going to do?
After processing this failure, she found an even deeper calling — she realized her true love was really in what ballet stood for. “I never really loved dancing, per se” she admitted. “I loved what ballet stood for…the glamor, the femininity, the elegance, the drama.” She began performing burlesque using her unique ballet skill set from her ballet training. After just a short while, her performances started attracting major attention and praise.
Her greatest failure had prepared her to do things she would never be able to do before.
“If I hadn’t been a lousy ballet dancer,” she remarked, “I doubt I would have pursued the obscure idea of being a 1940’s-style burlesque dancer.”
When faced with your shortcomings, it’s easy to despair and get angry.
But look a little deeper. Try being grateful for your shortcomings, and figure out how they can lead you to bigger, better things.
If You Can Get Past the Fear of Failure, You’ll Become Extraordinary
Fear of failure is the #1 killer of dreams. But if you can be one of the few people that can endure and overcome this fear…you’ll become extraordinary.
There’s an old riddle that goes something like this: where in the world can you find the world’s greatest books, treasures, and art? Perhaps a secret treasure chest in a cave somewhere, or a grand museum?
The answer: a graveyard. It’s staggering to imagine how many people have carried their art and ideas to the grave because they were too afraid to publish them.
It’s scary to put your work out in the world. When you compare your mediocre work with others’ work, it’s easy to get depressed and feel like you have no chance.
Years ago, I posted a silly little article to my no-name personal blog. I had a few views a day and no followers.
A few days after I posted the article, I got an email saying I received a comment! I was ecstatic — no one left me comments. I quickly clicked to go respond to my fan.
But when I scrolled down to the comments section, all I saw was this:
“This is the worst article I have ever read.”
I still remember the shock, anger, and despair I felt when I first read that. My heart literally started racing. My forehead began to sweat. I was crushed.
It’s amazing how much power the fear of failure has. I remember writing for years after I read that comment, editing my writing so that no one would ever have a reason to leave such a comment again. As a result, all my work was bland and boring.
It took a long time for me to learn there will always be someone who leaves that comment.
Years later — when I finally got the courage to write authentically, even if I got rejected — I saw even more negative comments for my work. But this time, I realized it didn’t really matter — getting rejected and possibly failing wasn’t as big of a deal. It’s all part of the process.
Once I realized that, my work got a lot better. I became free to be more authentic and vulnerable, which in turn made my work better and attracted more followers. Since then, I’ve seen millions of views for my work, I’ve gained tens of thousands of followers, I’ve gotten a signed book deal, and I’ve made tens of thousands of dollars.
If you can get past the fear of failure, you’ll become extraordinary.
The Greatest Response to Disappointment is 1 Word
Jocko Willink is a retired Navy SEAL instructor, author, and coach. He’s built an extremely popular resilience training based on one magical word:
- Got rejected for a position you wanted? Good. More time to train and get better.
- Failed an important test? Good. You have a chance to see what areas you need to work on.
- Got injured or hurt? Good. You can put all your focus on upgrading your mindset and mental functioning.
Whatever obstacle, disappointment, or failure you’re experiencing, the greatest response is a simple “good.” Because when you stop looking at failure as a problem and start looking at it as fuel…
You’ll become unstoppable.
One of my favorite books is Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way. The premise is simple: your obstacles are actually the solution — you need to go through them to get where you want to go. There’s no other way.
Before, I’d have a fairly common response to failure or disappointment — discouragement, frustration, even despair. Those are natural, and there’s a place to grieve and be pissed off that you didn’t win.
But after you’ve had your moment to feel sorry for yourself, the sooner you move on, the faster you’ll win. Once you start using your problems as fuel and seeing them as useful and good, nothing will be able to stop you.
Here’s What Will Happen When You Stop Being Jealous
Another common response to shortcomings is jealousy. There’s always someone out there who appears to be doing better than you.
The truth is, there probably are a lot of people currently better than you. But that’s OK — there’s enormous opportunity to learn and grow. Jealousy is a wasted response.
If you constantly look to the actions of others, you rarely act like yourself. Your values and behavior have a harder time aligning, making you unhappy and empty. As my friend Tim Denning once wrote, “Personal incongruency is what causes so much of our pain. Not being you will destroy you.”
Instead of wasting away in mediocrity playing the comparison game, choose to spend that time working on yourself instead.
I once heard being jealous and resentful is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I thought that was an eerily accurate description.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard on this topic was four simple words:
Stay in your lane.
It doesn’t matter how much faster they’re going. It doesn’t matter how much faster you’re going. If you keep looking at other lanes, you’re going to crash.
Focus on you. Learn all you can. Experiment, fail, discover what works.
Soon, you’ll build momentum. And one day, you’ll look around you, and marvel at just how damn fast you’re going.
Cut out jealousy. Spend all your spare time learning and growing.
“If your lifestyle does not add to your healing, it will subtract from it.” -Benjamin Foley
Your shortcomings are special fuel — perhaps the most potent fuel in the world.
Instead of complaining or getting jealous of others’ success, choose to use your shortcomings for what they are — fuel. And you need fuel if you want to get anywhere.
It’s not about being perfect all the time, or always getting what you life. Life is full of pivots, changing directions and polishing your approach. Your greatest shortcomings often lead you to your greatest achievements.