Essay on Success and Failure in Two Kinds by Amy Tan
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Amy Tan, a child of Chinese immigrants, wrote the story “Two Kinds”, telling the tale of a Jing-Mei’s rebellion against her mother’s desire to change her into a prodigy. As Jing-Mei’s mother continually tells her she does not try hard enough to succeed, the conflict between Jing-Mei and her mother escalates. Jing-Mei grows more stubborn, making every effort to resist her mother, and the relationship devolves into a standoff where mother and daughter both refuse to budge from their position. “Two Kinds” shows the irony in Jing-Mei’s relationship with her mother; while her mother believes Jing-Mei does not try hard enough to succeed, Jing-Mei succeeds in her struggle for identity by refusing to become the person her mother wants.
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Her uncertainties fester and lead her to discover her independent spirit, laying seed to the growth of her rebelliousness and the blossoming of the thorny relationship with her mother.
Her mother’s continual push to change Jing-Mei into a prodigy fuels Jing-Mei’s inner transformation from an obedient daughter to a defiant child. After several pitiable failures at intelligence tests, Jing-Mei sees disappointment in her mother’s face and Jing-Mei’s desire for perfection crumbles. Stricken, she takes a close look at herself in a mirror and sees a “sad, ugly girl” (Tan 207) looking back. Suddenly, a change takes place and a new face emerges in the mirror. Jing-Mei sees a “girl staring back…angry, powerful.” (Tan 207) Her metamorphosis concludes, leaving Jing-Mei bold, assertive, and angry, filled with a desire to keep her identity and resist change. Jing-Mei acts differently after her transformation by displaying profound apathy, causing her mother to lose resolve.
Instead of giving up, her mother decides to transform Jing-Mei into a great musician, and Jing-Mei soon finds herself taking piano lessons. Her tutor, however, suffers from deaf ears and she takes advantage of his handicap by pretending to studiously play. Jing-Mei succeeds with her ruse to the point where her mother brags to Jing-Mei’s Auntie Lindo about her piano playing prowess, saying: “It’s like you can’t stop her natural talent.” (Tan 209) Soon
Note: This is a guest post from Fred Tracy of FredTracy.com
If you’re like most people, you probably have a bad relationship with failure. You see it as an ending, as proof that your plan didn’t succeed or your ideas weren’t good enough. The truth is, failure happens to everyone. The only thing that separates people who succeed from those who don’t is a proper understanding of the power of failure. Success requires that you learn from mistakes and missteps along the way rather than falling into despair and giving up.
Pay attention to the information here, especially if you’re at a place where failure isn’t your friend, and you will find that opportunity lies in every defeat. Here are 3 reasons why failure is the key to success.
1. Failure is a Function of Trying
The best way to measure your progress at something is the number of setbacks and “failures” you’ve had. If you haven’t failed yet, chances are you aren’t trying very hard. Failure is the blacksmith’s hammer that tempers the sword of success. If you want to get really good at something, you have to fail at least a few times.
If you look at all the great men and women throughout history, you’ll notice that they had one main thing in common. They failed, and they failed often. Think of Thomas Edison. How many times did he fail to find the right filament for his light bulb? There are various estimates, but they all range in the ballpark of a whole heck of a lot. Henry Ford knew of failure intimately. So much so that he is quoted for saying the following: “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”
Clearly, failure represents opportunity and growth, not deficit and loss.
2. Success Lies in Seeing Failure as a Tool
Just as all the greats have something in common, so too do the true “failures” of life: their inability to use failure as a tool. When you feel that sinking, desperate sensation known as failure and you take it to heart, you diminish yourself. You give your power away to an external event. Success is about learning how to recognize why you failed, and how you’re going to compensate for it.
I find it helpful to ask myself the following questions upon failures, big and small.
- What brought about the failure?
- How much of it is in my realm of influence?
- How can I use my influence to turn failure into success?
- What steps do I need to go through to try again?
- What can I do every day to ensure that my next try is done more intelligently?
You may want to get out a piece of paper and go through that list. Be completely open and honest as you ask yourself each question. Analyze your answers carefully and implement them – don’t procrastinate! Remember, failure is an opportunity, not a burden. Be grateful for a chance to grow.
3. Failure Builds Character
If you look at the events leading up to any significant victory, you’ll often discover failure as the biggest motivator. Just as the Colorado River created the Grand Canyon over a period of millions of years, success can also come in small chunks, and they’re part of any winning strategy. On the other hand, waiting years upon years for something to happen isn’t effective when you can take action now.
So what do you need to consistently test yourself and learn from failed attempts? Character.
Success occurs in leaps and bounds for people who are ready for it. To genuinely create value, day in and day out, requires determination, purpose, and most of all, that subtle yet all-important trait known as character. Failure is a far better character builder than any affirmation or fleeting goal. While each success will propel you by a small amount, failure will forge your career – and your personality – like nothing else will. It’s the difference between a natural lake being formed over thousands of years and a man-made lake coming into fruition in under a year.
Success takes willpower, intelligence, determination, and grit. But more than anything else, it requires failure. Use this is an opportunity to reassess your relationship to the true key to success that so many people fear.
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Fred Tracy runs a personal development website where he writes about his unique experiences and insights into growing yourself. He writes in a humorous, direct style, and aims at entertaining his readers as much as helping them better themselves.
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