Kim Kardashian, Failure, and Controlling the Situation

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” -Maya Angelou

Sex tapes have come out in the past and will come out in the future, but few people have the fortitude and control over their own life to come out better despite them. People talk a lot of shit about Kim Kardashian, she doesn’t care. Oprah asked if her sex tape made Kim famous. The always poised Kim looked straight at her and said “yes it did,” but it gave her an audience that she capitalized on. “She’s only famous because of her sex tape” is played out, how many sex tapes have actually benefited the exposed? It took strategy and careful planning to take control of the unfortunate situation. She was catapulted into fame with that sex tape and then she used her poise to control the moment, not make it worse, using the lessons learned to propel her career forward. She took a seemingly bad moment and turned it into a multi-million dollar empire.

Learning to Control the Situation

Today publications like Forbes look to Kim Kardashian’s business accomplishments as case studies while she stands besides other celebrities like Jay-Z, Jessica Alba, and Ashton Kutcher at the pinnacle of celebrity business success. Kim paved the path to this success through dealing with obstacle and failure in a productive way. Obstacles, failure, and pain are inevitable. More importantly, these things are outside of our control. So how do we deal with obstructions in the present moment, taking control of the situation and then moving on toward the future?

First, we breathe.

“There is no problem so bad that we cannot make worse.” This is a popular phrase in among astronauts, where a problem may arise in any minute that could mean life or death. Of course this is true, but that doesn’t stop us from making our own problems worse. When your boss puts you on a tight deadline, or when your kids have to be three places at once, or when an asteroid hits your spaceship, the natural reaction is stress. From this stress comes anxiousness, unproductiveness, and often resentment. You allow your tight deadline to create an angst-induced frenzy, leading to mediocre work at best and downing Prozac at worst. We tend to make our situations worse. An asteroid hit our cockpit and our instrumentation is no longer functioning; a sex tape was leaked and now there’s images of you butt ass naked strewn across the cyber-webs. It sucks, for sure. But there’s nothing we can do about it now. So, instead of stressing about our options, let’s calmly assess the situation and work out a solution to the best of our ability. When a problem comes up, breathe. Breathe, and then take control of the situation.

Dealing with Failure

But, sometimes situations are unsalvageable. You were calm and you did your best, but failure still arrived. Of course it did. When you took that first college test and you failed it, everyone around you reminded you that “now you know how that professor’s tests are going to be structured.” The message was clear that this was a good failure: it will make you better in the future. But at some threshold we begin to perceive failure differently. We distinguish between "big" failures and "small" failures. All of a sudden a "big" failure becomes the ultimate decision. When we fail to get promoted we think we are less and when we fail to get that loan, then we are out of options. Why are these failures any different than those of when you were learning to take a test, or learning to do anything for that matter? The temptation is to think that a failure we have invested much in requires a different response than those that we haven’t or that some failures are inherently “bigger” than others. Yes, a divorce has far more implications than a missed train. But, we can learn a lot more about ourselves and life from a divorce than a missed train. Failure is the mechanism by which we learn. All of scientific thought is built up on repeated experiments of which some succeeded, but most failed. Failure is inevitable, make the most out of it.

Further, learn to love failure. At the seeming height of his business, Thomas Edison’s factory and life’s work went into flames. People woke him up from his house, but the chemical fire couldn’t be put out. When people asked them what they could do he told them to quickly grab all of their friends because they were never going to see a colorful flame like this ever again in their lifetime. Edison was calm and excited to the point that others thought he was delusional. He wasn’t. Edison noticed the failure, calmed himself, and found something to love in the burning of his life’s work, taking control of the situation. What good would getting angry have done? In just a few more weeks he had his factory back up and running, more efficient and safer than ever, learning from his previous factory. Love failure, because what good is it to be angry? When you have failed you have an opportunity to learn and do better. There is nothing better than getting better and learning and growing. Therefore there’s nothing better than failure.

Moving to the Future

Five years after her sex tape, Kim Kardashian explained to Oprah that “I am who I am now, and I’m proud of who I am, and I’m happy. I really don’t care.”  Looking back on her sex tape, Kim Kardashian is indifferent, but more importantly today she isn’t just happy, she is content. Failure is often so debilitating because we are worried about what others will think. Realizing that failure is the only way to success will allow you to become content with your own.

In the 80s, Steve Jobs failed at Apple, failed in his personal relationships, started another company that failed, and then failed to turn Pixar into a business-to-business computer company. But, we don’t remember those failures. We remember how he helped create one of the greatest animation studios ever, disrupted the personal computer with the iMac, changed the music industry with the iPod and iTunes, disrupted the laptop market with the iPad, and basically invented the smartphone. Failures are quickly forgotten when followed by success. Success is reached by learning from failure.