One may succeed without actually succeeding. That’s a good thing because most of us never get where we’re going anyway. It’s the journey that defines us.
My buddy Moses was a good example. He led the Jews out of Egypt, through the Sinai Desert and to the Promised Land. But Moses screwed up and wasn’t allowed to finish the trip. I don’t remember all the details, I was just a kid at the time, but the story goes that Moses was allowed to look but not go in. His followers would finish the trip and pillage Jericho. They had a great time.
Ferdinand Magellan is one of the most famous explorers in history because he sailed around the world … almost. During a rest stop in the Philippines, he got a little too full of himself and under the leadership, he thought, of God, attacked a group of natives. The natives didn’t take to that and killed him. That pretty much ended Magellan’s trip. His crew finished what he’d started. But somebody had to tell the story. Which suggests another point: How do we know that Magellan was killed by natives in the Philippines? The surviving crew said so. Think about it.
George Custer got carved up when he thought victory was inevitable at the Little Bighorn. Some of his men didn’t want to have that fight, but they were good soldiers and did what good soldiers do. It was a really bad day at Little Bighorn for non-Indians.
Just because you think a goal is worthy doesn’t mean it is. Like, whose idea was it to fire on Fort Sumter? That decision caused the most brutal war in American history but ultimately led to emancipation. Unintended consequences can be good or bad.
For seven years, Donald Trump marched to the precipice of repealing Obamacare. But when the end came, he didn’t have the votes. This was just a few weeks after Hillary Clinton was working on her acceptance speech. You never know what waits at the end of a journey.
There are many examples of people making names for themselves because they tried to do something but never actually did it. Gonzaga comes to mind.
My personal tragedy was never fulfilling my plan to replace Walter Cronkite. They gave the job to Dan Rather instead. Big mistake. I worked hard for the job.
And that’s the point. A dream is worth the effort. Without trying, I would never have been able to be “on your side” in Richmond all those years. Come to think of it, isn’t it time to retire that slogan and move on? But back to my point, I think when people make an effort to do something worthwhile they leave in their wake a lot of good stuff. Short of the ultimate goal, perhaps, but stuff that would have never happened without the effort toward something greater.
Did you know that Post-it Notes are a result of failure? Some science dude was working on a formula for glue then threw up his hands because his glue wouldn’t dry. That’s a true story I think, or at least I’ve heard it and I like it so I believe it. There is a tremendous market for glue that never dries. Who knew?
While we’re on this sticky subject it’s a worth a mention that Super Glue was a byproduct of trying to put a man in space. It came from the space program. The inventors didn’t set out to make Super Glue. They set out to put a man on the moon. We didn’t get much from the moonwalk but en route there were many wonderful achievements, Super Glue among them.
So, one may pontificate tritely at this point. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But a bad venture is not worth having. There’s always the chance if you start heading to a bad place, you may actually get there. But the chances of coming up with something good, like Post-it Notes or Super Glue, are greatly improved if we make an effort to go somewhere worthwhile. We may not get what we wanted, but we’ll get something.
Actually, I enjoyed all those years being on your side. S
Gene Cox is an author and inventor, who retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at genecoxrva.