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Failure Leads to Success

Sometimes your biggest failures can lead to your success. If you let it.

That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am reminded of this story about a famous Chinese calligrapher and scholar, Yan Zhenqing (顏真卿), who lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).

Yan Zhenqing was born into a poor family, but he was ambitious and had a strong desire to succeed in the imperial examinations, which were the gateway to government positions and a prosperous life during that time. However, he failed the exams multiple times, leading to great disappointment and frustration.

Feeling defeated and devastated by his repeated failures, Yan Zhenqing returned home and immersed himself in self-study and self-improvement. He focused on calligraphy and literature, determined to excel in these fields even if he couldn't succeed in the civil service exams.

Through relentless practice, Yan Zhenqing's calligraphic skills improved. He developed a unique style that became highly admired. Eventually, his calligraphy gained widespread recognition, and he became one of the most celebrated calligraphers in Chinese history.

Zhenqing Caligraphy

His dedication and perseverance did not go unnoticed. After some time, Yan Zhenqing's talent and accomplishments caught the attention of the Tang court. He was offered an official position, and he eventually served in important government posts, showcasing not only his calligraphy skills but also his scholarly knowledge and administrative abilities.

Yan Zhenqing's story serves as an inspiring reminder that failure is not the end; it can be an opportunity for growth and self-improvement. His journey from exam failure to becoming a renowned calligrapher and successful scholar has become a symbol of persistence and dedication in Chinese culture.

I've had moments like that. I auditioned 3 or 4 times for the university orchestra concerto competition before I won. Each time I competed I learned something about myself. I watched the other performers and figured out why the winners were chosen.

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