Chau: Grit, Determination and Resilience Personified

The words “grit,” “determination,” and “resilience” are often associated with successful people.  Tweet 37 in my book Success Tweets captures the essence of grit, determination and reslience.  It says, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it.  Don’t dwell on the negative. Use it as a springboard to action and creativity.”

Over the weekend Cathy and I went to see the documentary short films nominated for an Oscar this year.  One of them is called “Chau: Beyond the Lines.”  It is as inspirational a story as I’ve seen in a long time.  Chau is a Vietnamese young man who is disabled due to the effects of Agent Orange.  He grew up in a “camp” for other Vietnamese children suffering the ill effects of Agent Orange.

Chau is severely disabled.  His legs are bent at hideous angles.  He cannot walk.  He gets around using a wheelchair or by scooting on his backside.  His arms and hands are somewhat useful, but he still needs both hands to hold anything.

Chau also has a lifelong dream of being an artist and a clothing designer.  As a child, he entered a national contest for young Vietnamese artists several years in a row.  He never did very well, because the work of art submitted to the contest had to be produced in two hours.  It takes Chau at least a day to complete one of his pieces of art.

After Chau left the camp, he moved to Ho Chi Minh city where he enrolled in an art school that served people with disabilities.  He met a young woman there who painted with her feet.  He couldn’t paint with his feet because of his disability, so he taught himself to paint holding the paintbrush in his mouth.

Today, he makes his living as a full time artist.  All of his paintings are done holding the brush in his mouth.  You can see some of his work – and purchase a painting — by visiting his Facebook page  He still has dreams of creating his own clothing line.  I’m betting that he will make those dreams come true too.

Chau’s story is remarkable.  He experienced a lot of failure, criticism and rejection in pursuing his dream of becoming a working artist.  But because of his grit, determination and resilience he has succeeded in become one.

There’s a career success lesson here.  Failure, criticism and rejection provide you with the opportunity to grow and develop – to succeed.  You can’t take failure, criticism and rejection personally.  Failure, criticism and rejection are outcomes.  They are a result of things you have done – or in Chau’s case, things that happened to him through no fault of his own.

Failure, criticism and rejection are not who you are.  We all make mistakes and fail.  We all do things that cause others to criticize or reject us.  This doesn’t mean that we are failures.  It means that we have made some poor choices and done some not-so-smart things.

Failure, criticism and rejection provide the opportunity to start over – hopefully a little smarter.  Buckminster Fuller once said, “Whatever humans have learned had to be learned as a consequence of trial and error experience.  Humans have learned only through mistakes.”

Don’t be too hard on yourself when you fail, or when others criticize or reject you.  Put your energy into figuring out why you failed and then do something different.  Here are four questions to ask yourself the next time you fail, or get criticized or rejected.

  1. Why did I fail?  Why did I get criticized or rejected?  What did I do to cause the failure, criticism or rejection?
  2. What could I have done to prevent the failure, criticism or rejection?
  3. What have I learned from this situation?
  4. What will I do differently the next time?

If you do this, you’ll be using failure, criticism and rejection to your advantage.  In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says, “Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”  I know it’s hard to see the benefit or opportunity in failure, criticism and rejection.  But it’s there – you just have to look hard enough.  But it all begins by facing your fear and acting.  The less you fear failure, the more career success you’ll create.

Chau faced a lot of failure, criticism and rejection – and he came through it a stronger, successful person.  You can too.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to  to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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