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Jay Shetty explains why our definition of failure is completely wrong

Has there ever been someone who became an overnight sensation? This motivational philosopher doesn’t think so.

In this short but impactful video (see below) Jay Shetty states: “I’m convinced that there is no such thing as an overnight success. I believe it’s a fallacy, a myth, to believe that overnight, in 24 hours, someone can turn into a worldwide phenomenon.”

What was going on before the so-called “sudden” success?

Shetty recounts a version of the Picasso anecdote according to which the famous artist charged an outrageous price for a portrait he drew of a passerby in the street where he was working. Upon her outraged reaction, he famously and unapologetically responded: “It took me 30 years to paint that in 30 seconds.”

What can we learn from these famous words? Firstly, that Picasso knew his own value, but also that it takes time and hard work to become an expert.

As Shetty says, the time plodding away at your art is an invisible world beyond the bottom of the iceberg. It’s the part you don’t see, that made what you see today possible.

This puts me in mind of the achievements of someone like Roger Federer who has been described as the greatest tennis player ever. All his fans see is him walking on court and delivering a flawless performance. They don’t see the focused planning, the dedication to keeping fit and all the sacrifices that top athletes like him have to make over years on a daily basis to be the performers they eventually become.

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Says Shetty: “When you look at the definition of failure in the English dictionary it’s defined by three words: lack of success.” This definition fails, because it means that we don’t value learning, that we don’t value growth or experience and struggle.


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Our obsession with winning means that we’re missing out on everything that we could be learning at in any single moment, observes Shetty.

Shetty proceeds to recount examples of people like Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey and Abraham Lincoln who all initially “failed” miserably and we all know where they ended up. Oprah who has become the most influential woman in the world was actually told that she is not fit for television.

Shetty says he has come to believe that failure actually has the ability to lure success. Countless failures are almost doorkeepers to success, he says.

Life tests you for your authenticity and real desire to chase that goal and importantly, tests your real desire to embody the values that are needed to take responsibility for that success or that position and the influence it brings with it.

In the end, failure is part of success. If you’ve never failed, you’ve never really tried anything new.

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