Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating

TED Talk: Elizabeth Gilbert

Updated GOAL Academy


What do rejection and success have in common? In this TED Talk, Elizabeth Gilbert, the acclaimed author of Eat, Pray, Love, explains why achievement can be just as disorienting as failure. Discover how to restore your drive after experiencing either of these extremes.

What You’ll Learn

After completing the work on this page, you will be able to:

  • Comprehend what great failure and great success have in common
  • Define what you consider to be “your house”
  • Recall how to “find your way back home” after rejection or triumph

Watch the Video

Dig Deeper

After watching the video, reflect on the following questions. Jot down your thoughts. Consider sharing this video with a colleague or a work group for an insightful discussion.

  1. Have you ever experienced deep rejection or profound victory? What impact did that have on you? How did you manage to navigate back “home”?
  2. According to Elizabeth Gilbert, you should build your house on worthiness. For her, it’s all about writing. Where do you build your house and why is that significant to you?
  3. This week, take note of your failures and successes, big or small. How did these affect you? Did you find your drive to keep going? If so, how?

Still Hungry?

Here’s more to spark your thinking on this topic:

  • How happy are you? Learn about your happiness set point and how to move the needle in the Huffington Post two-part article Resetting Your Happiness Set Point: Part 1 and Part 2.
  • Ever feel like your job should be making you happier? Discover why in the Harvard Business Review article Happiness Traps by Annie McKee. Note: Harvard Business Review limits you to 4 free articles per month. This will count as one of your free downloads.

Write a Review

  1. In this video Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to think about our core motivations – why do you do what you do? and encourages us to return to that motivation to get through emotional highs and lows.

    I found her message to be thought provoking and grounding. It lead to some self-value exercising and consideration! Great video to come to when thinking about your next steps.


  2. This video explores ideas about how success and failure are tied inextricably together – something that many of us forget or have problems dealing with. It also delves into self-awareness of why we do what we do and how to keep ego from dictating how we define our success. I enjoyed the questions that this video posed and think it is useful for examining your own motivations.


  3. This Ted Talk video features writer Elizabeth Gilbert as she explores how success and failure are two sides of the same coin in how we experience them psychologically. The place you want to “live” on the spectrum between success and failure is somewhere in the middle where you are “at home.” She asks us to build our “home” on worthiness, whatever that may represent for us so that we can find our way back as “swiftly and smoothly” as possible when we are catapulted to either extremes.

    I love how the talk recasts our thinking on success and failure, and provides us tools for navigating these two extremes.


  4. In this TED talk, author Elizabeth Gilbert draws out the psychological connection between when we experience great failure and when we experience great success–our subconscious cannot distinguish the difference between the two. When we experience them, we need to go back “home,” to whatever we love more than ourselves, to get back to equilibrium. The Dig Deeper questions are great prompts to ponder our processes for dealing with success and/or failure, and for discerning what “home” is for us.


  5. Of all the TedTalks we listened to for the GOAL Academy program, this one left me thinking the most. I appreciated Elizabeth Gilbert’s explanation of the ways in which success and failure can both leave us unbalanced. She shares strategies for finding your way back “home,” whatever your home may be–family, work, a hobby, etc. I recommend this video for anyone who sometimes feels themselves lacking drive or direction (and I think that’s most of us).


  6. This TEDtalk has put a lot of thought about how we get in our own way. She breaks this topic of resiliency into relatable stories and demonstrates how we can overcome challenges. Especially when these challenges ultimately turn negative, how can we learn from this experience?

    I have recommended this TEDtalk to other colleagues, friends, and family.


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