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Donald Trump on Failure

Donald Trump on failure.
Jay Dixit
This post is a response to The Failure Interview Series by Jay Dixit

Donald Trump's comeback is one of the most dramatic of all time—as well as one of the most visible. According to a well-known anecdote, one day when he was $1 billion in debt, Trump pointed out a homeless man to his daughter and said, "See that bum? He has a billion dollars more than me." The Guinness Book of Records lists him as having the biggest financial turnaround in history. "In the early 1990s, I owed billions of dollars and many people thought I was finished," says Trump. "I refused to give in to the negative circumstances and I never lost faith in myself. I didn't believe I was finished even when the newspapers were saying so. I refused to give up. Defeat is not in my vocabulary."

What was the most triumphant moment in your career?

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There have been so many great moments that it's hard to pick one. I would say that receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was something I had not counted on when I started my career in real estate, so that was a big triumph as well as a surprise.

What was the lowest point of your career or personal life? How did you bounce back? What was it that pulled you up from the depths? What do you think it is about your personality that allowed you to learn from difficult times, rather than being consumed and overwhelmed by them?

The lowest point was in the early 1990's. I owed billions of dollars and many people thought I was finished. I am listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the biggest financial turnaround in history and I'm far more successful now. What helped is that I refused to give in to the negative circumstances and I never lost faith in myself. I didn't believe I was finished even when the newspapers were saying so.

I knew that things were cyclical and also I'm a firm believer that you should look at the solution, not the problem. I focused on the solution and refused to give up. Being tenacious is part of my personality and I'm not easily discouraged. It's necessary to be tough in the business I'm in, or in any business for that matter, and in certain situations you either have to be equal to the challenge or be defeated. Defeat is not in my vocabulary personally or professionally, which I think served me well in my comeback.

My father was friends with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and I had read his famous book, The Power of Positive Thinking. I'm a cautious optimist but also a firm believer in the power of being positive. I think that helped. I refused to be sucked into negative thinking on any level, even when the indications weren't great. That was a good lesson because I emerged on a very victorious level. It's a good way to go.

Jay Dixit is a science writer based in New York.

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