You Can Quote Me: Getting Back Up

Actress and United Artist Co-Founder Mary Pickford

It’s All About Perspective


Canadian born Mary Pickford (1892-1979) became a powerhouse in American entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century. She started in the industry with her family when she was a child, and went on to become co-founder of United Artists, one of the largest and most successful studios in Hollywood, and a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Yes, THAT Academy.

Pickford was smart, beautiful, accomplished, and wise. She certainly knew success, but she also knew failure. Affectionately referred to as America’s Sweetheart, she married fellow actor Douglas Fairbanks, but eventually divorced him amid rumors of his infidelity. She ultimately knew the only thing that stood in the way of her success was herself, and she didn’t allow anyone or anything to deter her from her goals and dreams.

She wasn’t the first one to realize that disappointments and missteps are a part of life and it was her choice to let it keep her down, or to learn the lesson and move on.

Mary Pickford – (1916) U.S. Library of Congress

Mary didn’t stay down for long. She picked up, dusted off, and continued forging ahead, paving the way for entertainers, artists, and women to come.

She lived this ideal: You’re only defeated if you stay down when you stumble.

And then there’s Madonna, icon of music and pop culture.madonna-1983-3-3
Madonna (1983) Sire Records/Warner Bros. Records, cover photograph by Gary Heery

Whether you’re a fan, or not, you have to give her credit for her ability to completely reinvent herself. She’s changed her public persona the way some people change their hairstyle. When she felt a direction no longer served to further her success, she moved on to the next thing.

It’s something to admire and perhaps envy, a bit. Not everyone can transform everything about their public selves. And sometimes, even if you have the wherewithal, there are always outside factors that impact the process.

  • children
  • a spouse/partner
  • a job
  • illness
  • money issues
  • family obligations

These are all things that can affect your ability to redirect your future.

Failure is such an odd concept. A word that for many has powerful meaning attached to it, most of it negative, for obvious reasons. But if you look at failure not as an end, but as a step in the process, it seems a little less offensive, doesn’t it? It’s only truly an end if you allow it to be.

I can think of five quotes, off the top of my head, that talk about how your reaction to your circumstances and the things that happen in your life can dictate the outcome, but I’m sure you’ve heard them all. Instead, I’ll just point and nod.

For me, Mary Pickford’s thoughts are particularly impactful at this point in my life, as I find myself treading in some unexpected waters. But I also understand the fact I’ll only sink if I quit paddling.

On days when you don’t necessarily feel successful, or when you experience a setback, whether minor or significant, remember her words.

Believe that YOU have the option to let it be a lesson.

Adjust your sails.

And keep on paddling.

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