Lessons from the Great Gatsby


The author who wrote the novel “The Great Gatsby,” believed he was a failure.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an alcoholic, depressed that he was not getting the praise he felt he deserved.

It would not be until after his passing at the young age of 44 that Fitzgerald would be considered one of the greatest novelists of our time.

But there was more good that came from this 20th century writer beyond his novels. Fitzgerald had a unique view about troubled times and failure which allowed him to keep moving forward, despite his personal demons.

His philosophy on how to look at turmoil in our lives has great lessons for us today.

Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle.

Overcoming obstacles, outlasting troubled times and knowing we are bigger than our problems are ways in which Fitzgerald kept moving forward and upwards. In his view, there is no greater accomplishment, and no greater feeling, than coming out of struggle with your head held high. And so, let us not fear difficulty, but look forward to our triumph over it.

Action is character.

There is so much talk these days about “character” and “authenticity” – being real and genuine. To Fitzgerald, our personal brand is not reliant upon what we say or even what we intend to do. It is completely dependent upon our actions. What people think of us will be determined by our actions above all else.

Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind.

If you can translate your hopes, plans and dreams into life accomplishments, Fitzgerald would have called you a genius. That’s because moving our thoughts into action often seems impossible, especially now when disruption and chaos rule the day. But the true genius is to start – taking the easiest step first, then baby steps along the journey. Be the genius you are capable of being.

Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement. Discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint.

Fitzgerald believed that being discouraged and facing real problems are not necessarily connected. You can be negative and discouraged for no reason at all, even when things are neutral or going well. He experienced this in his own life – choosing to be down and out, in spite of his commercial success. The opposite is also true. We can be positive, encouraged and determined in the face of difficulty. Make the right choice – to always be hopeful, regardless of outside circumstance.

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.

When we experience failure, it seems catastrophic at the time. I recall a few years ago when a friend’s marriage came to an end. She proclaimed, “My life is now over.” Today, she enjoys a strong, healthy relationship with another spouse. Defeat is temporary. To believe in a better tomorrow is more realistic than to resign ourselves to permanent failure.

Scott Fitzgerald, in his younger days, lived the high life, just like the playboy character in his novel The Great Gatsby.

He and his wife were New York celebrities -but his wife Zelda developed severe mental illness – causing Fitzgerald to drink more than ever and experience financial problems that would plague him for the rest of his life.

Through it all, this brilliant writer kept going, writing almost up to his death.

The Great Gatsby, which was turned into a movie numerous times is required reading in many schools and today, remains a best seller.

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