Keep Walking

November 2, 2003

KEEP WALKING by Ray Pritchard You wouldn’t think of finding spiritual inspiration from a whiskey ad, but that’s what happened to me the other day. While leafing through the pages of a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, I came across an ad for Johnny Walker whiskey. The ad is actually a picture of a youngish man seated at an enormous sound board. The picture is stretched horizontally over the bottom of two pages to give the impression of the immensity of the sound board, which looks like it might be the control panel for the space shuttle. Reading from left to right, there are four phrases that tell the story: Terrible guitarist Incompetent drummer Laughable lead singer Double-platinum producer. Then the tagline: “Keep walking” (nice tie-in with the Johnny Walker theme). It occurred to me as I studied the ad that I have absolutely no idea who the man in the picture might be. After thinking about it (briefly), I don’t even have a guess. But it doesn’t really matter because his identity isn’t the point of the ad. Maybe it’s better that I don’t know his name. Perhaps the personal details would be distracting to the main point, which happens to be very helpful because it is entirely true. In the course of life most of us will fail at something, and some of us will fail at several things. Few people become overnight successes at an early age and stay that way forever. Or, for every time that happens, there are a thousand times it doesn’t happen. We’re much more likely to be a terrible guitarist the first time around. And when we change course, it’s not that unusual to be an incompetent drummer or even a laughable lead singer. Now it doesn’t follow that a string of failures always leads to success. That happens in fairy tales, not in real life. But failure is often the backdoor to success. Here’s a fine example to ponder: He failed in business in 1831 He was defeated for legislature in 1832 He had his second business failure in 1833 He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1836 Was defeated for Speaker in 1838 Defeated for Elector in 1840 Defeated for Congress in 1843 Defeated for Congress in 1848 Defeated for Senate in 1855 Defeated for Vice President in 1856 Defeated for Senate in 1858 Elected President in 1860. No one thinks of Abraham Lincoln as a failure. Failure doesn’t have to be final unless you decide to make it that way. The final line in the ad–“Keep Walking”

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