Here is the full transcript of radio personality Bobby Bones’ TEDx Talk presentation on My Story: Winning By Losing at TEDxNashville conference. This event occurred on March 17, 2017 at Nashville, Tennessee.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: My Story – Winning By Losing – Bobby Bones at TEDxNashville
Hello! Thank you. Thank you. I’m here to talk about screwing up, because that is what I do a lot of. And so it’s all about winning by losing, and it sounds like a foreign concept, because you think, wow, people are good; they win. But really the biggest winners are often the biggest losers from what I have learned. And you know, we look at winners and we see basically their byline.
What we see is someone who is super successful and why they’re super successful, we see a few lines about them. But what we don’t see are the years, the days, the minutes that they put into, of just straight failure to be able to get where they are.
And people tend to fail upward and that’s what we don’t get to see, because, again, we only get to see the polished product. Now, for me, losing is a tool. I’ve also hand-drawn all my sketches tonight.
So I’ve learned that using the tool of losing is so great for me, because first of all I tend to lose a lot. My career has been one mess up after another. I’ll probably mess this up. First of all, I tried to do a TED talk before and they rejected me. So — thank you — they said no, that’s not good enough. So I put another one together about not being good enough and they said yes come on up.
And so what I do is I use losing as a tool and I think a lot of us don’t see losing as a positive at all. But if we do, that’s where we can start to succeed.
So what happens with losing is, the first time like this guy here, Walt Disney. Now, you know Walt Disney because he has won more Academy Awards than anyone else. What you may not know about Walt Disney is, Walt Disney was rejected for some nutty theme park idea that he had by like over 300 investors. He created this mouse that they said, hey, that’s going to creep women out.
This guy here, Steve Jobs — I don’t know what you’re laughing at; I hope it’s not my drawings. Steve Jobs basically created the way we all talk to each other now. But Steve Jobs wasn’t always super successful, like Steve Jobs started the company in his garage, true; but he had four, five, six massive product failures. And not only that he was fired from the company that he started, right? These are all people that we know is super successful; they really lost so many times before they were able to make it.
Elvis Presley, the king of rock-and-roll, let’s talk about him for one second, because — we know him as pretty much the greatest American artist of all time. Go to the Opry, they said, hey dude, don’t come back, like you can’t sing. They literally said you shouldn’t come back and play the Opry. You should go back to driving a truck or being a gravedigger which is what he was. He also didn’t get in an Acapella group; they told him he couldn’t act. All this happened to Elvis Presley, like these are three really successful people that we see now and we go wow, those people are so awesome; they must have always been good at what they did, which is not the case at all. And it’s really not the case with anyone.
Hey, there’s me. Now, I want to tell you guys my story, because my story is that of being able to take three steps back to take one step forward, if something is really important to you.
Now a lot of people ask me: how can I be successful? And you know, I’ll go speak at schools; I’ll speak to college kids; I’ll speak to groups. They say what is the key to being successful? My answer is always the same exact thing: it’s just to fail and then to fail and to fail.
And there are two things that you can learn why you fail. Number one is, Do you have the resilience to bounce back after you fail? That’s the most important thing and I think that’s the thing you see with super successful people over and over again. It said it doesn’t matter how many times you knock them down, they get back up. That’s number one.
Number two, to be successful is, Okay you get back up but what did you learn. That’s a very important part of it.
If you can do those two things, if you can lose, if you can fail and you can get back up and you can learn from why you fail, and continue to do that over and over again, that’s where success comes from.
I grew up in a small town called Mountain Pine, Arkansas, not really the greatest culture if you want to be someone who gets out; it’s a sawmill town, 700 people the population. And so for me I wanted to get out; I wanted to build this mega empire of radio and books and TV and I wanted to do comedy. You know, there wasn’t a lot of that for me. But I knew that in order to get out, I would have to start somewhere and I wanted to do radio.
And so I grew up in a town where there wasn’t a lot – 50% under the poverty level, most people ride around the level and just a few above. They had above-ground pools. Yeah, sweet.
And so I grew up with a grandma who raised me. I grew up with a mom who at times was in and out as I was adopted by my grandmother at times. My mom had a drug addiction problem, died in her 40s and suffered through alcohol abuse her entire life. And so it wasn’t always the easiest time for me and I always felt resentful about that. I thought there are so many people with safety nets out there that I wish I was like that. I wish that I would have had something to fall back on and it wasn’t later into life that I realized the fact that I had nothing to fall back on was actually the greatest thing to ever happen to me.
So as I talk about winning and losing and failing and succeeding, I think we grew up or taught so much different than what the real world is. We’re taught that if you’re good at something, you just succeed. That’s not how it works. If you’re good at something, you try and you learn and you get better, you take the losses and then you succeed, and sometimes it takes a month, sometimes it takes ten years.
For me, I was upset because I never had a safety net. Little did I know that that is why, it was that made me succeed. I had two plans. I had plan A. Plan A was to be on the radio to have my own radio show. Plan B was to go back to plan A at all times. So I have Plan A. You laugh; that was it. I had nowhere else to go.
So because I had no other job, I couldn’t go to be an accountant, I couldn’t go to my cousin’s Walgreens and work there. It was only this — and I’m thankful that that’s what happened to me now. And it took me a long time to realize that.