How to create, modify, find, and rank Essay Contest posts.

Creating and posting your Failure and Success essay is fairly straightforward.

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I Love John W Norton Jr!

This is a test essay to see if third-party users can successfully post to the site once registering.  So far, it’s looking pretty good.  Hopefully it continues.

I am so proud of you, sweetie.  You touch so many people’s lives, and this essay contest is just another example of it.

The Story of Success

The Beginning
1: Know thyself.
2: Try everything.
3: What is your vision?
4: Confront your fears.
5: Start!

The Journey
6: You will stumble!
7: Try again.
8: Find your path.
9: Remember your vision.
10: Enjoy the scenery.

The Process
11: Make it a habit.
12: Find a partner.
13: Track your effort.
14: Never give up!

The Destination
15: Reach for understanding.
16: Mentor others.
17: There is no end.

The Ring of Life

One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it.”

“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty,” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?” “It has magic powers,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.

Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a jewel merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet.

“Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.

He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity.

“Well, my friend,” said Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled.

To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!” As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.”

At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.

The paradox of control

We own our own lives. Every action, thought, choice, decision, or path we take is of our own doing. At the same time, each of us is subject to the ever- present challenges and forces external to our own existence.

So is there a meritocracy? Or is there simply luck? The simple truth is that both are true. If you are faster you will win the race. If you are taller, you will win the rebound. Or will you? As much as height improves your chances of being a basketball success, a quick review will turn up dozens of height- challenged basketball successes. Similar efforts can generate lists of business successes who started out dirt poor, literary giants with poor education, and other heroes who had no business succeeding.

So what is the point of this? The clear take-away from this paradox is this: we can choose to improve our circumstances no matter what the situation. And that is the greatest truth. We cannot possibly dictate the circumstances that created our existence, but we can absolutely dictate our respond to those circumstances. Instead of glowering at the unfair past that dumped us where we now stand, we can turn to face the future and make it our own.

Walt Disney’s father discouraged his cartooning and drawing. Disney’s first business partner stole his first cartoon character, and poached every one of his employees except Ub Iwwerks, his first hire. Despite these challenges, he persevered, kept moving forward, and made his life his own. Beethoven went deaf. But instead of choosing another career, he stuck with music and composition, and wrote nearly 100 more compositions before he died. Michael Jordan was kicked off of his high school basketball team because he wasn’t good enough. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he used the frustration of denial to motivate his practice.

Everyone has valid excuses to fail. But the paradox of success is recognizing those reasons, and either addressing them, solving them, or simply ignoring them. Our lot is miserably unfair. Forgive the past. It cannot be changed. Face the future; it flows towards you now.

Courage quote, from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Great book, get it, read it. Highly recommend it.

The following quote was put on my desk a few days ago:

Confrontation takes considerable courage, and many people would prefer to take the course of least resistance, belittling and criticizing, betraying confidences, or participating in gossip about others behind their backs. But in the long run, people will trust and respect you if you are honest and open and kind with them. You care enough to confront.”

What courage can you show today? Confront the source, don’t hide and gossip.

Calvin Coolidge on persistance

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

John Calvin Coolidge Jr., thirtieth (1923–1929) President of the United States

One of my motivational speeches

My name is John Norton and today I’m going to talk to you about the contradiction of failure and success. There are a lot of books out there that talk about success and failure….that order sounds a little better off the tongue…..but the deepest truth is that the greatest success always follows some kind of failure so today I will talk of the paradox of failure and success.

For this talk I will address three points of success. I have taught in the freshman engineering program for about 4 years here at Michigan, and I present my students with three characteristics of success: Vision, Overcoming Failure, and Multiple Routes.

I will provide examples of well-known successes who experienced considerable failure in their careers. Finally, I will describe the characteristics and attraction that true failure has for each of us. “True” failure, you say, what do you mean by that? John, I’ve failed 100’s of times, 1,000’s of times.

Ahh, but you are not a true failure if you are still trying, and that is the paradox of failure and success.

A paradox is a contradictory statement, one that conflicts with expectation. The paradox of failure and success is that only failures never fail, and almost all successes had numerous failures. So then, what should we do to achieve real success? The first step is vision.

Thomas Edison, founder of General Electric and holder of more patents than anyone else in history had considerable vision. Edison worked for more than two years to improve the lightbulb, it was already invented by other folks, but the problem was the filament, it would burn out after just a few minutes. Edison had a vision of a working lightbulb where the filament would last for months. Edison and his team at Menlo Park tried over 6,000 different filament materials, including thousands made from plants and animals, as well as every metal and mineral available. Can you imagine that scenario? Well, that didn’t work, let’s try again. Well, that didn’t work, let’s try again. Well, that didn’t work, let’s try again.

6,000 times.

When do you stop? And when you stop, you fail.

Edison could not picture any experiment as a failure. Instead, he held a picture of success in is head, a vision of what he thought could be. As Edison’s biographer Paul Israel writes, “Edison saw every failure as a success, because it channeled his thinking in a more fruitful direction.”

The paradox: truly successful people use failure to drive their success. Edison had a vision of what the light-bulb could be, and so he worked to create it.

The first step to success is Vision. Have a vision of where you want to be. This one is obvious, if you don’t have any goal, all the effort in the world won’t help you get there. The clearest example of this in society is when established scientists and engineers give demonstrations to elementary school students, especially inner city schools with typically disadvantaged student populations. The electrical engineer isn’t trying to teach “how to manufacture a computer chip” to a ten-year old. The civil engineer isn’t trying to turn a third-grader into a bridge designer. Rather, they are trying to paint a picture of possibility to a pupil. Their intent is not to teach them a skill, but rather, to enrich a life by improve that person’s picture of their future.

As Peter Drucker said “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” If these students see themselves in this future, that is the first step to their lives.

Vision. Paint a picture of where you might exist in your future.


The next step to success, as you might have guessed, is failure. Failure presents itself as an obstacle preventing our passage to success.

Basketball great Michael Jordan was a failure. In 1978 when Jordan was a sophomore at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina he was cut from the high school basketball team….he wasn’t good enough. Instead of giving up after failing to make the team, Jordan used the failure to spur himself to greater accomplishment, practicing hour after hour on the court. During an interview years later Jordan said, “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it, that usually got me going again.”

Failure. As you create the path towards your vision, you will encounter the door of failure. This door might be a paper screen. It appears significant, but actually only requires forward progress and you rip through it. The door of failure might be more significant, a thin wooden door like we have in our apartment. It provides brief security, a little sound protection, but in a fire, with my kids on the other side of that door, it would take me only seconds to bash through. Sometimes that door of failure takes a lot of effort, significant time, to get through, we need to use tools, hammers and drills, heavy sledges to bash our way past, but our path is on the other side, and so exert ourselves we must.

That door of failure will exist, often numerous times, dozens of times, blocking our way along our path to our vision. To succeed, we must know that it exists, and be prepared to muster the effort to turn that potential failure into merely an obstacle to be overcome.


Finally, we must realize that the path to success might entail multiple routes, that obstacles might exist that are simply is too much to overcome.

Former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders was a success. Sanders was the 1988 Heisman Trophy winner, the first true college junior ever drafted by the NFL, the first running back ever to have 10 consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, and at age 34 was the 3rd youngest person ever inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. His winding, twisting runs towards the end zone have been featured numerous times on televised specials of sporting legends. These specials show Sanders running for dozens of yards back and forth, just to achieve a few yards of forward progress.

Because of his unique style of football persistence, Barry Sanders is also one of the greatest NFL failures of all time.

Despite being the third greatest NFL rusher in yards gained, Sanders is also the NFL’s all-time leader in yards lost, losing 1,114 total yards during his 10-year career. Sanders is an all time record-setting NFL failure. His route towards the end zone was never a straight line, but because he risked yards lost, he excelled in yards gained. He was willing to try another path, literally another path on the football field, when obstacles preventing his progress – the players of the opposing team! – presented too great a challenge along one path.

Sanders was one of the greatest successes of all time because he was willing to change direction, even temporarily head away from his ultimate goal and risk taking a loss, to achieve the triumphant touchdown.


I can sum up these three aspects of success with a simile of a mountain. We have a vision of the other side of the mountain, that is what drives us. As travel on our way, we encounter obstacles that present themselves as potential failures, landslides, sheer cliffs, mountain lions – each one could stop us – that we need to pass to continue on our way. Finally, sometimes we need to look to an alternate path, we go over the mountain, around the mountain, sometimes we might even have to go through the mountain.

Each aspect of success presents itself as a potential failure. But what does it mean to really fail?


True failure expresses itself constantly as an excuse, a reason to stop, an obstacle you have never seen, a barrier bigger than ever existed. Failure is constantly there, presenting itself as a comfortable option, an excuse, a good excuse, the best excuse you could state: “I have never done that before.” Even better than that: “no one has done that before.”

Who can argue that? Presumptuous you, thinking you might be better than all that came before? No, give up now rather than risk wasted effort, that is the lure presented by failure.

Success is a challenge, a distant picture in your mind, blurry, indistinct. Who knows if it could be done? Success could be just past the next bend, just over a little hill, a small rise, some little effort all that remains, BUT YOU DON’T KNOW. Success could be a mirage, ever distant, a goal to pursue like Don Quixotic’s, never to be achieved. Do you want a wasted life spent pursuing some ephemeral dream? Give up now! Pursue something you KNOW you can achieve and be ever mediocre, average, one of the crowd.

Mediocrity is a comfortable chair that allows you to sit without the pain of being of loser, the pain of even trying. Is that the kind of life you want to lead? It’s your choice…..

Or do you want to join the list of great failures, Albert Einstein, Michael Jordon, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill and others, who failed so miserably in their lives….and yet are known, not for their sometimes dreadful failures, but for their eventual astonishing successes.

Is that the kind of life you want to lead? Again, it’s your choice…..

Overall happiness – part of success?

Although my primary focus is in motivating success, the following article discusses how to achieve happiness – clearly part of a successful life! One could define success as simply being happy with life, a strong point could be made that generally happy people are actually more successful at any given task. So, how to be happy? Once again, we see some decent advice coming from real research and not new age baloney.

The article (link) discusses methods to improve one’s long term happiness by reviewing, before bed, each day’s “happy moments” and the reasons for the happy feeling.

 “As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Caroline Adams Miller knows a few things about using mental exercises to achieve goals. But last year, one exercise she was asked to try took her by surprise.

Every night, she was to think of three good things that happened that day and analyze why they occurred. That was supposed to increase her overall happiness. Miller was assigned the task as homework in a master’s degree program. But as a chronic worrier, she knew she could use the kind of boost the exercise was supposed to deliver.

She got it.

“The quality of my dreams has changed, I never have trouble falling asleep and I do feel happier,” she said.

Results may vary, as they say in the weight-loss ads. But that exercise is one of several that have shown preliminary promise in recent research into how people can make themselves happier — not just for a day or two, but long-term. It’s part of a larger body of work that challenges a long-standing skepticism about whether that’s even possible.

The article then discusses the work of Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania (whose work led to the “think of three happy things” idea) and psychologist Ed Diener of the University of Illinois. These researchers believe that emotions such as happiness are malleable, and thus improvable, with the proper tools, and they are working to discover these tools.

I have long believed that an individual’s emotional state and mental resiliency are huge factors in determining their success and general course in life and it is delightful seeing these researchers working towards an understanding of these important life factors.

How can you drive your potential to improve?

You can drive your potential to improve by understanding your goals and motivation for improvement.


You must understand your goals, your real “know thyself” goals, to understand your destination for success. In other words, you must understand your destination if you are going to make any progress on getting there. This is the “what” of what you are doing.

At the same time you must also understand your true “know thyself” motivation for success. This is the “why” of why anything is done. Our motivation might be internal or external, physical or emotional, altruistic or pride… no judgment on the driver but failure to recognize and acknowledge your own specific motivation(s) will limit your ability to harness this motivation to achieve your success.

Summary and/or Implications
You must understand your goals and motivation in oder to select the best tools to drive your success. Goals are the what, and motivation is the why.