If you want to learn about success, talk to a successful person. If you want to learn about failure, talk to a very successful person. In his new book Fail Up, TV and radio host Tavis Smiley offers lessons on how to turn life’s setbacks into success.
2011 marks Smiley’s 20th year in broadcast — and that anniversary got him thinking: “The way I arrived at this place [of success] was failing my way — all the way,” he says. The book is sort of a Top 20 Worst-Of list: It details the 20 biggest mistakes of Smiley’s life.
Some of these mistakes were news even to Smiley’s close family. Before the Fail Up manuscript arrived at his parents’ house, Smiley called home to tell his mother and father they were about to read things they’d never heard before. Smiley was the first person in his family to go to college — but when he marched across the stage at Indiana University to get his diploma, he hadn’t really graduated. It technically took Smiley 16 years to get his degree; during college, he had been arrested and sent to jail for check fraud. “I couldn’t bring myself to tell my parents that I’d gone to jail while I was in college,” he says. “[Or] that I didn’t have a college degree.”