You have heard the famous saying attributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and mystery writer Rita Mae Brown; that the definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Insane is exactly how I feel as I am trying to build my company and turn my passions into a profitable business.
I have failed so many times and not small failures, but huge failures. The kind of failures that make people give unsolicited advice and tell you to see a therapist. I remember a friend of mine telling me the definition of insanity while I was a starving artist in Los Angeles, complaining about the fact that no matter how hard I tried to make progress in my career (or life for that matter) I was really getting no where. And although the quote makes complete sense in one regard; not only is this not the true definition of insanity, but none of these historical figures were even responsible for this incorrect usage of the word.
People aren't trying to use the word correctly. And let's be clear insanity is a legal term pertaining to a defendant's ability to judge right and wrong when they have committed a crime. But what people are really insinuating is that if you keep doing the same actions, you are a fool for expecting things to turn out differently. More often times worse than the last time you tried. Although not harmful on the surface, there is a deeper pessimistic energy underneath. As if life doesn't come with rounds of mistakes, failures, and frankly naivety that you fumble through until you know better and have learned differently. Instead of acknowledging that the road to success is paved with several defeats. People can use that quote as a way to avoid their fears or explain why you shouldn't try something again or why you haven't succeeded at a goal after the third attempt.
Anyone who has built an acting career, successful company, or changed the laws of our Government knows that it takes constant repetitive actions to get there. Even though the evidence of your work can take several years and even decades to bring to fruition. They also know the path to success is not linear. At times you are doing the same stupid action you did before. Life's lessons are never neatly packaged for you to decide to take or refuse. I think what people are really referring to is the difference between Perseveration and Perseverance.
Perseveration is the pathological, uncontrollable, persistent repetition of a word, gesture, or act. Perseverance is steady persistence in a course of action in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
What I was doing in Los Angeles building a acting career was perseverance, dating the same guy who has cheated on you numerous times is perseveration. Since perseveration is a mental illness it's a little easier to differentiate. It feels compulsive, hopeless, helpless, automatic, and unsatisfying. Although there is a desire to stop, very often it does not feel like a viable option. Perseverance can be thought of as a more noble cause. It is seen as striving toward a goal, and whether or not it's reached there is virtue in the actual act of trying.
Failing and persevering is so important to our life experiences. We learn what to do and what not to do by our failures. We continue to achieve our goals in spite of those failure through perseverance. We toughen up, stand taller, and learn the course of life after we fail. In fact the greatest teacher in life is failure. It's natures way of kicking you into fighting shape, where all the excess is stripped down and egos are left behind. Without failure we are less compassionate, empathetic, kind, and motivated. Things we need a lot of in the world today.
Do people have a point? Are you crazy for trying something over and over again? Is there a limit to how many times you can try to reach a goal? Is something wrong if you are constantly failing to get what you want out of life?
Honestly who cares? If you understand that persistence in an of itself is not necessarily enough to achieve greatness. That doing something a second time that has failed is indeed foolish, but sometimes it's shrewd, and you have the wisdom to know the difference, then keep going. Because only you can decide what true failure means. But one thing it is not is insanity.