Failure. It is the only thing in life that allows one to fall, reorient oneself, and restart on a new track of life. A casual stroll through Central Park was the setting for the astoundingly deep life lesson that the class was given by the New Yorker’s own Alec Wilkinson. Wilkinson, a former college friend of our own Professor Cumming, felt that rather than giving a superficial how-to guide of how to make it in New York, he would delve deep into the fundamentals of how to survive and thrive, not just in the magazine business, but in life as a whole. And he accomplished his goal with an ease and fluidity that it was obvious he had lived through every story he told. Constantly coming back to a motif of failure, Wilkinson explained his life story and how he came to be where he is now (an author of upwards of ten books, a successful New Yorker writer, et cetera). Living his life by the motto “Life isn’t about success, it is about failing honorably,” Wilkinson was constantly faced with adversity and struggles during his path in the Big Apple.
From growing up as an aspiring musician, to being a police officer, to freelancing for the New Yorker, whenever Wilkinson would take every failure as a chance to open a new door in his life, firmly believing that eventually he would make it where he thought he ought to be. Aside from the charismatic stories that he told (each with its own deeper meaning), the real lesson was not simply his career path. It was much more than that. In a sense, it was a motivational speech disguised as an autobiography, pounding into our heads the simple phrase: “fail, then fail again, then fail harder,” and only then will you be successful.