Success Stories By Dick Kazan - Valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on August 4, 2009

Today: A man who turned a defeat into success and how you can too.

Have you failed repeatedly in your life? If so, you’re not alone. Today’s story is about one of my defeats and where it led.

As a teenager, I attended El Camino College [Torrance, CA], a two year school with thousands of students. Because of my interest in politics, I ran for student body president.

But when I registered to run, I was told, “don’t bother. The fraternities and sororities have it locked up. You wouldn’t have a chance.”

I ran anyway, my only opponent the fraternity candidate. But his posters were everywhere on or near the campus. And he spoke at parties hosted by the fraternities. Even the school newspaper treated it largely like my opponent was running unopposed.

It was going to be a wipeout, an embarrassment, unless I did something different. But what? I had no money. Then I noticed the one thing they didn’t do was go out and meet the students. But how would I do that?

Walk up and introduce myself to strangers? You gotta be kidding. Even the thought upset me. But then so did the thought of being humiliated in an election.

So I mustered my courage and began walking the campus, approaching the students in ones and twos with a smile and introducing myself.

At first it was gut wrenching. But after a while it wasn’t so hard. I’d shake their hands, learn their names, tell them of my candidacy and ask what changes they’d like to see.

Some snubbed me because they supported my opponent or didn’t care about the elections. But most were pleased someone would take an interest in them and what they thought.

I couldn’t even afford handouts. I just wrote my name, the election date and poling place.

Just before the election, the school held a rally so the candidates could speak. My opponent was so confident, he said very little but his fraternity brothers cheered for him anyway.

Sitting near the podium, I got nervous looking at this sea of people, all those eyes staring at us.

Would I remember what to say? Or would I freeze and be humiliated in front of everyone? Would they laugh or boo or yell wise cracks at me? Then as I looked at the faces I realized many weren’t strangers, we had met and talked. I thought of them as a giant crowd of friends.

When I got to the microphone I spoke passionately, and many in the crowd cheered loudly.

A few days later when the election ended many people gathered to hear the results. My opponent had been an overwhelming favorite.

When he was announced the winner, the crowd cheered. But when they also announced the vote count, he had barely beaten me.

A surprised hush fell over the crowd. Then suddenly it was pandemonium as he and his fraternity brothers marched off to celebrate their victory. I stood there alone in defeat struck by the fact my opponent hadn’t even acknowledged me or shaken my hand.

I ached inside, hung my head and walked off.

Then as I sat alone, it occurred to me, it wasn’t a defeat at all. Hadn’t I discovered how to speak to a crowd? Hadn’t I learned to introduce myself en masse to complete strangers? I can’t tell you what winning did for my opponent but here is what losing did for me:

Later I became an entrepreneur and succeeded by using those skills. Speaking to large numbers of people was essential in motivating employees. But more important was cold calling prospective customers which became crucial in building the company.

I also learned I could overcome a competitor with far greater resources. And it all began with that election.

It is the same way in your life. As you look at your defeats you realize how valuable they are. We seldom learn in triumph but there can be profound lessons in defeat.

But if you let defeats hold you back, it just means you haven’t yet learned the lessons from them. Analyze them now for they can be pure gold to you.

Then pick an unrealized dream you’ve had, muster your courage and apply those lessons. What is the worst that can happen to you, defeat? You’ve been there and done that. And each time you survived and you gained precious experience.

Think of it like a soccer [football] game. You kick the ball trying to score a goal and each time the goalkeeper rejects your kick. But if you learn from the experience and keep kicking, one of these days you’ll see the ball pass through the uprights and you’ll hear the crowd cheer.

And most importantly, your heart will quietly cheer for you knowing you found the courage to rise from defeat and make it a success.

Success Tip of the Week: “Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes only after many struggles and countless defeats.” Og Mandino

In the next KazanToday: How to protect your job and get ahead in a bad economy.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!