I'ma Be A Failure
“Everybody doing them, I'm still stretching on the block
Like ‘Damn, I'ma be a failure
Surrounded by thugs, drugs, and drug paraphernalia’”
~This Can’t Be Life, Jay Z
I don’t need to do independent research to know that I’m an anomaly (But I did). I’m the exception to the rule. I’m a black male from a low income, disenfranchised neighborhood raised by a single mother who dropped out of high school. No matter how you frame the statistics of men with my background, the numbers aren’t on my side. Our culture has become so desensitized to the phrase “dead or in jail by 25” that I feel we think it’s just something people say. But according to Urban.org, “One in five people in prison for at least 10 years is a black man incarcerated before age 25.” As a black man in America who doesn’t want to be another statistic, these numbers can be discouraging.
But as any Venture Capitalist — a person who invests in startup companies — would tell you, you don’t have to be in the majority to “win.” There is power in the minority. You only need to get it right one time. A VC can invest in 20 companies and 19 can fail. But if one is a big success, he or she can make their money back for all 20 investments. What are the chances of that happening? According to the Small Business Association (SBA):
30% of new businesses fail during the first 2 years of being open
50% fail during the first 5 years
66% fail during the first 10 years
Only 25% make it to 15 years or more.
So if 75% of businesses ultimately fail, why do people start new companies every day? And why do VCs continue to invest in these companies? Because they just need one of those companies to get it right one time. And one will because someone has to be next. Someone will undoubtedly create the next Uber, Amazon or Google, but nobody knows who until it happens. Including the company owners themselves. In 1999, Google tried to sell their company for $1 million, but the offer was turned down. Today, Google is worth more than $800 billion. When Google first started, they weren’t sure how to make one dollar with a free search engine, let alone billions. But after several failed attempts, they got it.
A common misconception in life is that perfection is the predecessor of success, when in fact failure — a lot of it — often comes before a breakthrough. It is said that Thomas Edison made thousands of unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before he found success. I believe he kept trying because he knew he only needed to get it right one time. And that one time makes all the previous struggle and failures worth it. The tough part is going through failures when it seems success is nowhere in sight. When you feel like you might fail forever and never make it to your one time. This is the wrong mindset about failure. Our fear of feeling less than too often causes us to waste our failures or paralyzes us so that we don’t even try, which is worse than failing. But how? How do we get past our failures?
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot ... and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed."
~ Michael Jordan
It’s important to note that Michael Jordan is #7 on the list of players who’ve missed the most shots in NBA history. Why doesn’t Jordan’s last missed shot haunt him? Because he took one more shot. And then another one. This simple but scary step is one key to overcoming failure. To overcome it, you have to do the thing you failed at again. And sometimes again, and again. This seems scary only because you perceive it to be something dangerous. But in most cases your fears aren’t dangerous, they’re just scary. There is a difference.
For example, imagine a beach in Florida on a beautiful sunny day and you're relaxing in the calm blue water. Nothing is scary about this on the surface. However, Florida consistently leads the world as the most common place for shark attacks. That scene could actually be very dangerous. Now, imagine yourself alone, in a pitch dark room watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Halloween night. Even though this is only a movie, I personally know people who would refuse $1,000 to take on that challenge because it’s too scary. Absolutely no danger is involved, but it still evokes fear in them. It’s vital for us to stop, assess our fears and ask, is this dangerous or am I just scared? Knowing the difference can be life-changing.
When I first started rapping at 12 years old I was trash. I’m talking BIG TRASH. I wasn’t original, my flow pattern was all over the place and my rhymes were equivalent to “one-fish, two-fish, red-fish, blue-fish.” My cousins would always have me rap at the end of a song and it wasn’t to save the best for last. I’m still not sure why they didn’t kick me out of the group? Grace, I guess. They would help me with my lyrics and I’d listen to other MCs to get better, but neither was the ultimate difference maker. I got better because I just kept writing. Every day, several times a day, even at school when I was supposed to be reading Beowulf, I was writing rhymes. Eventually, I got good, and then really good. What if I wouldn't have pushed past the failure? It’s likely you wouldn't be reading this right now. And though my 12-year-old lyrical battle is behind me, as a man striving every day to be better, I still face fear and failure.
One of my greatest fears is not living up to my full God-given potential. The belief that because I am in the minority as a black man, my broken past won’t support the hope of a bright future. This fear, when allowed to go unchecked, creates anxiety, stress, and pressure in my life. But if I don’t allow emotion to overtake me, it’s clear that none of that holds any truth. My past is part of what made me the man I am today, and anxiousness about the future is pointless. In fact, the Bible clearly tells me, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” - Matthew 6:25-27
Saying that God is the “ultimate Venture Capitalist” who takes risks investing in us would be incorrect on several levels. He’s so much more. You don’t need a past history of success or a projection of profits in your business plan or your life story. You have nothing He can profit from, yet He has invested in you His greatest offering, His Son.
So I'm going to keep learning and growing as a man and an artist. I'm going to keep releasing music, but more importantly, focusing on community. Stay locked in with me at 281-205-0565 to be a part of the movement.