Vince Lombardi famously said, “It’s not whether you get knocked
down; it’s whether you get back up.”
Rocky Balboa elaborated on this idea a bit more eloquently here:
As I look back on my decades as a writer, I can tell you I got
knocked down plenty of times … and had many bad things happen
that made me feel I was a failure.
Just 3 quick examples (and I could give you many more):
#1–Failed newspaper career.
Even though I majored in engineering, I wrote every day for the
college daily newspaper, and got it into my head that I might
like to be a newspaper reporter.
I sent out many resumes. The only interview I had, which a friend
from the college paper who had graduated ahead of me helped me
get, was with the Buffalo bureau of the Associated Press.
I went, had the interview, and took 3 tests — writing,
intelligence, and spelling.
And they didn’t hire me.
#2–Failed short story writer.
When I was a teenager, I submitted a short story to Galaxy
science fiction magazine — and they bought it. I was ecstatic!
But then the magazine folded. My story was never published, and
the promised check never came.
After that, I continued to submit my short stories to the science
fiction and literary magazines, and could have papered my bedroom
with all the rejections. And made no more sales.
#3–Failed science writer.
My junior year at the University of Rochester I wrote an article
on the school’s laser fusion research laboratory:
The lab’s communications and PR director liked it so much he
offered me a summer job as a science writer under him.
I was thrilled beyond words. But then he called me shortly before
the beginning of the summer break with some bad news: the
funding got cut and he couldn’t hire me.
I was crushed.
***However, for all 3 of the above failures, all was not lost…***
Without having heard Lombardi’s advice or being told it by anyone
else, it turns out that I kind of did get back up from these
knockouts, albeit on a small scale.
#1–Writing for newspapers.
In the late 1970s, right out of college, I moved to Maryland and
went to work as a technical marketing writer for Westinghouse — a
job I loved so much I am still good friends with the guy who was
my boss there today.
I then called the editor of Baltimore’s then-alternative
newspaper, City Paper, and asked if I could meet with him.
He agreed. We talked. And I started freelancing for — my dream
come true — a real newspaper … and even got paid.
#2–Getting my short stories published.
My dry spell in short stories continued on and off over the
ensuing decades, though I wrote very few additional stories
during that time.
But out of the blue a couple of years ago, an editor at Quill
Driver, a California book publisher, read some of my stories
“If you’ve got a dozen more, we’ll put out a collection in
paperback,” he said.
I did, and in 2016 they published my first fiction book, titled
“Freak Show of the Gods and Other Tales of the Bizarre.”
#3–Becoming a published science writer.
I did not give up on science writing, either.
I reviewed science books for a small magazine “Science Books and
Then had my first hardcover science book, “The Science in Science
Fiction,” published by Benbella in 2005.
Now I will have my second science book published by Quill Driver
later this year.
So what is my point in telling you all this?
Simply that Lombardi and Balboa are right.
Getting knocked down isn’t failure, only a setback.
It’s temporary failure unless you give up for good. Then it
Yoda said, “There is no try, there is only do or not do.”
Not to argue with a Jedi master, but I think he greatly
underestimates the value of trying.
As billionaire Mark Cuban once said: it’s okay to fail many
times, because you only have to succeed once to make it.
Or as the motivational speakers are fond of telling us: “There is
no failure, only feedback.”
Chumbawamba sang in Tubthumping: “I get knocked down, but I get
I have. Plenty of times. But I am still alive and kicking.
“Never, never give up.” — Winston Churchill.