Life Engineering, a motivational, scientific self-help website to help you overcome your past and achieve success in life
Abraham Lincoln encountered many failures, before becoming president

Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States

In 1831, Abraham Lincoln failed in business.

In 1832, Abraham Lincoln was defeated for state legislator.

In 1833, Abraham Lincoln tried a new business, and failed.

In 1835, Abraham Lincoln’s fiancée died.

In 1836, Abraham Lincoln had a nervous breakdown.

In 1843, Abraham Lincoln ran for congress and was defeated.

In 1848, Lincoln ran again, and was defeated. Again.

In 1855, Lincoln ran for the Senate, and lost.

In 1856, Lincoln ran for Vice President, and lost.

In 1859, Lincoln ran again for the Senate. He was defeated.

Then, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.

What matters most is not how many times you fail, but that you never stop trying.


Photo credit:
Alexander Gardner
Silver Gelatin Print
Color, James Nance
February 5, 1865
Washington D.C.
M-97, O-116
Copyright 2002 Nance

Unrestricted copyright usage from:

As I’ve continued writing my book, Escape Velocity, I keep thinking upon this notion of microcosms.

For more on what I call “The microcosm approach to success”, see the following two posts:

Making the most of microcosms (how to use microcosms to achieve large objectives)
Controlled Failure (how to fail on your terms)

There’s an additional point I thought I’d make though.

The Microcosm approach to success is about how to deconstruct larger objectives into smaller, more easily developed sets of skills, talents, tasks, and abilities, and then creating small, controlled environments where you can build those individually, with less risk.

But even if you don’t have something substantial you’re trying to achieve in life, there’s inherent value in living a life enriched by microcosms that challenge you. Mini-challenges if you will.

Some of that value is that we obtain an increased ability to cope with failure, as explained in the second post above. But what’s more, we begin to perfect the sets of skills required to accomplish things, even small things.

After all, the whole definition of a microcosm is a smaller representation of something larger.

When you have a life in which you frequently encounter small, controlled challenges, when life tosses you something big, something unforeseen, you’ll have already kept honed the skills and innate capacity to overcome it. You’ll just be applying it on a larger scale.

I think this is why people who frequently exercise, tend to face adversity with more optimism. Exercise, particularly weight lifting, is an ideal form of microcosmic challenges. Each day you’re forced to face fear, doubt, pain, and failure. In fact, you go into it with that in mind. That’s your objective.

But it doesn’t have to be weight lifting. The right hobbies can work the same way. They can challenge you in ways that prepare you for life’s larger challenges.

In short, microcosms make you stronger. If you don’t have a healthy dose of success microcosms in your life, I’d encourage you to find some. You’ll find that they leave you better prepared for life.


As I mention here, we should be failing on a regular basis. I want to fail. To not fail usually means I’m not pushing hard enough. Not trying new things. And there are vital lessons that we learn when we fail, and that can only be learned through failure.

The road to success is paved with past failures. Success doesn’t happen “all of a sudden”.

So I want to experience failure. But, I want to do it on my own terms. On small-scale endeavors, where the risk is low and controlled.

This is a fringe benefit of the microcosm approach to accomplishment, explained here. First, you deconstruct a larger goal, vision, or objective into smaller components. Then create microcosms for yourself to recreate those components in smaller, more manageable endeavors. By doing this, when you fail (and you occasionally will, or should if they’re challenging enough), you ensure that the failures happen on your terms. When it doesn’t matter as much, or when there’s less risk.

By taking this approach to controlled failure, you gain several benefits. The first, of course is that by failing on the small stuff, and learning your lessons, you’re less likely to fail on the big stuff, when it really matters.

The second, is that you learn how to cope with failure. You learn to see it for what it is, a means to an end. Failure is put in perspective, as part of the path to growth, as opposed to something personal. It’s not an indication that you’re worthless, that you’re no good, that you’re doomed and should just give up. It’s an indication that you’re fighting a good fight, that you’re challenging yourself, and that you still have work to do.

In a way you become desensitized to failure. By intentionally making it a more frequent component of your life (in the manner of your choosing), you become more objective about it. You’re better able to separate yourself from the equation, and approach it more analytically. You’ll learn more from it, because you’ll have the benefit of both frequency and objectivity.

By making controlled failure a more common component of your life, you’re less prone to negatively react to larger failures that you’ll inevitably encounter. You’ll be more apt to respond positively, retain your optimism, and have the faith and self confidence to persevere.

Whereas if who avoid failure by avoiding circumstances where you may fail, sure you’ll experience failure less frequently, but that only makes it all the more severe and emotionally destructive when you do.

So don’t fear failure. Don’t shy away from it. Embrace it, but do it on your terms, using the microcosm approach to accomplishment.


Life Engineering, a motivational, scientific self-help website to help you overcome your past and achieve success in life
Anja Paerson, 2010 Winter Olympics, motivation for overcoming failure

Anja Paerson, image by Doug Mills / New York Times (click for source)

Among the stories of olympic athletes at the 2010 Winter Olympic games, one that recently caught my attention was that of Anja Paerson, one of the most decorated downhill skiers in the world.

Anja Paerson has an incredible 41 wins on the World Cup circuit which she started at only 16 years old (18 in Slalom, 11 in giant slalom, 4 in super-G, 5 in downhill, and 3 in combined).

But Wednesday, during the last portion of her race, she caught the last jump off balance, leaning too far back, and lost control. She flew almost 60 meters (about half the length of a football field), twisting and sliding the rest of the way down the slope.

In the end, she had severe bruising all over her body, and internal bleeding in her left leg.

Paerson said “At first, I didn’t know if I would be in a hospital or a coma. All kinds of things run through your head. I have a lot of bruises in my legs. The hardest thing is my left calf. That’s what’s hurting when I go into the boots.”

Her frightening crash can be seen on this NBC clip (hers is the last crash in the sequence).

Anja Paerson, motivates those who fail - get back up

Anja Paerson. Image by Doug Mills / New York Times (click for source)

Yet, she got up and walked off the course.

“That was a fall that probably would have taken 98 percent of the field out,” commented Jim Tracy, U.S. women’s head coach.

But Thursday morning she was in the gates for another downhill to open the super-combined.

“I wouldn’t be able to win a beauty contest today. But I don’t care, as long as I could ski,” she said.

She had a need to overcome her personal daemon – that last jump.

“I really wanted to do that jump in the bottom,” she explained. “For me it would’ve been a hard time to manage to cope with it in your head if I hadn’t done that jump.

“I was pretty scared this morning. I was scared to hit that last jump again. But it is like they say, you want to get back on the horse that threw you. I wanted to try to race, and I wanted to take that jump again.

“The morning was really the hard part because even the very first jump out of the start house I was nervous about mentally. A crash like that does not leave you right away. It’s a big fight. But that is what we do. We fall and we get back up.”

Wonderfully put, more wonderfully demonstrated.

Anja went back and took the bronze.

What I learned from Anja Paerson’s outstanding example?

When you fall, you have to get back up. You have to face your daemons. You have to overcome the fear of crashing again. Crashing is part of the process, in any endeavor. What matters is that you get back up and do it again.

Thank you Anja for your inspiring attitude. You’re a motivation to me.


Other motivational and inspirational Olympic highlights:

Petra Majdic - motivation through willpower

Petra Majdic overcomes 4 broken ribs and a punctured lung to win the bronze.  Proving that sheer willpower is stronger than nearly any adversity you can face.

Lindsey Vonn - olympic effort, and hard work is key to achieving your goals and dreams

Lindsey Vonn – she didn’t start out the fastest, she wasn’t the most naturally gifted.  But she started small, persevered, and through a crazy amount of hard work has become the most successful female skier in World Cup history.

motivation from the faces of 2010 Vancouver olympic champions

I’m constantly inspired by the photos of olympic champions in the moment of their success. Expressions that encapsulate the culmination of years of hard work, living their dream and achieving their goals.  Click the photo above for an ever updated catalog of these expressions.

2010 Olympic Highlight - Seth Wescott

Seth Wescott wins the gold, 6 weeks ago he couldn’t even walk. Overcoming injury, the worst-possible starting gate, and an unthinkable gap that left him in last place through most of the race, he kept his focus, believed in himself, and succeeded. Read his story.