When Rebecca Dennet’s coworker ironically hung a cheesy inspirational poster in their shared cubicle, Dennet was initially amused. But as the days wore on she began to feel the unexpected—inspiration.
“Everyone else was laughing, but I was just sitting there like, ‘Holy shit, that’s so true,’” says Dennet, blinking back tears. “All I want to do is hate it with everyone else, but it just got me.”
The poster reads, “Failure is not falling down, but refusing to get up,” in blue Arial font superimposed on a generic black and white nature scene most likely not photographed by Ansel Adams. Far from an earnest attempt to boost office morale, the poster is actually her cubical-mate’s idea of a joke. And yet, despite knowing the poster’s blatantly sarcastic intent, Dennet says she often finds herself turning to the image in the midst of a long day for renewed resolve, secretly taking emotional sustenance from it from time to time.
“Fatima put it up ironically,” Dennet explains, in a hushed undertone. “She loves to make fun of ‘corporate schmaltz,’ as she calls it. We always laugh at those kinds of motivational clichés. You know, like the posters you’d see in school that say stuff like: Hang in There. I usually hate stuff like that. But something about this one just spoke to me.”
Much to her chagrin, the psychological boost it continually affords her remains entirely real.
“I’m fully aware it is a manipulation, just like reality TV romances, or those sad ASPCA commercials with the sick puppies. I know I’m being played. But it’s playing me in a good direction. I joined a gym and even called my mom for the first time in years.”
Despite her best efforts to roll her eyes, the Ansel Adams knockoff with the alleged Chinese proverb continues to hold Dennet in the thrall of its inspirational clutches, particularly when she finds herself going through troubled times.
“I’m working on becoming more cynical about it or at least getting my inspiration from something less corny, like The Secret. But for now, that dumb poster still makes me feel things. Things not quite as shameful as how much I cried at A Walk to Remember, but still, things.”