Sharon Denise Allison-Ottey
From My Heart To Yours

Keep Moving Forward

Sharon D. Allison-Ottey, MD

Often my greatest revelations come while on an airplanes as I am scurrying around the country. Recently I was on a plane for a particularly long flight and became a bit irritated because the movie that they were showing was an animated film. However, I was a bored, captured audience and had little choice so I put in the earphones and began to watch the movie, “Meet the Robinsons”. Well, I watched it and lo and behold I received inspiration—funny how this happens when we least expect it.

The motto for one of the characters and indeed the entire movie was “Keep moving forward.” The character was an inventor and instead of only celebrating successes, they REALLY celebrated failures. I mean they sang, danced and cheered as they celebrated the failures--- as I watched the movie I began to think about the concept. I was reminded of a quote from the great entrepreneur, Henry Ford who said: “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Think about it, in our lives we all have moments when things just didn’t work out and indeed we consider them failures. The examples in many of our lives are numerous and if we are honest the “failures” usually outweigh our “successes”. Naturally, we usually try to push the failures out of our minds because we are ashamed of them or feel that our value is weakened or that we are inferior to others.

I challenge us to look at what others and perhaps ourselves would term “failure.” Perhaps you lead a simple life and have never dared to dream big and thus have no monumental successes OR failures. I dare say that if we are alive, we have experienced failure. There are small things like a cake that you’re baking falling in the oven because you set it at the wrong temperature, the meal that you slaved over for hours that turned out too salty for anyone to eat, the relationship that you were unfaithful in and destroyed, the class that you failed, the diet that you started AGAIN but couldn’t lose a pound, the presentation at work that you totally bombed, the friend that you betrayed and subsequently lost that friendship, the business deal that went wrong, the DUI that you received on your way home from a party or your great novel that no one read. The list goes on and on but the one thing that is ever true is that we all have our own list of failures both big and small. We can look at the failures and relive them in shame and humiliation or we can celebrate them and use them as learning blocks. Yes, celebrate them as the characters did in the movie—perhaps not with singing and dancing but at least allowing ourselves the luxury of appreciating that we are human and failures are the constant testimony of that fact.

“A failure is a man who has blundered but is not capable of cashing in on the experience” was eloquently stated by Elbert Hubbard. Your failures can cripple you or propel you—which will it be? I know people that have failed miserably and publicly faced humiliation and embarrassment that would send many of us off a cliff. However, these people gritted their teeth, pulled from within, continued to “Move Forward” and they’re no longer noted for their failures but rather for their tenacity and success. We often think of success or rather successful people as the millionaires, the celebrities or those that have achieved “greatness” by the world’s standards. I dare tell you that while there is some measure of success with these persons, it really is the mother that raises four children alone in a crime infested environment and is able to watch them graduate from high school and/or college despite the odds. Success is found in the alcoholic who drank heavily for decades but decided to change his life, sought the help needed and is thankful for each second of sobriety. Success is navigating life’s challenging waters and despite being lied on, cheated, abused and misunderstood—remaining in the fight and not giving up or committing suicide. Success is the battered woman with children that one day finds the courage to walk out of the house into an unknown future in search of a life without abuse. Success is the father that is belittled daily by his boss and coworkers, feels trapped in a dead marriage that chooses to stay and fight for a better life despite his own discomfort.

The measure of success is not a bank account, notoriety or a measure of fame. The measure of success is found inside of us and blossoms when we are faced with life’s major challenges. How do we respond to the challenges? Do we curl up into fetal position, cry a bucket of tears and wallow in our pain? Do we indeed shed tears but as we cry do we grasp the inner strength and fortitude to stand up, pick up one foot and put it down, pick up the other foot and move forward in a stride of hope and belief that if we “keep moving forward” that what is ahead is better than what is behind. You will NEVER taste true greatness without having swallowed the sour pill of defeat. When life prescribes that horrific “pill”, take it but know that it is temporary on your road to the rest of your life. While it may be bitter, cause you nausea and pain; know that it is but for a season and truly “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” KEEP MOVING FORWARD!