Tuesday 10 January 2017

Embrace Failure Until You Succeed

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." (Thomas Edison)

  • Einstein's teachers said he would "never amount to anything."
  • Scientist John Gurdon was told by a teacher that it would be "ridiculous" for him to go into science.
  • J. K. Rowling received 12 rejections for her Harry Potter manuscript before it was accepted.
  • Basketball legend Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity basketball team.
  • Walt Disney was fired from his job at the Kansas City Star due to "lack of creativity".
  • The inventor of the Xerox (photocopier) machine was rejected 20 times.
  • Peanuts creator Charles Schulz's cartoons were all rejected by his high school yearbook.
  • Thomas Edison failed at least 1000 times when creating inventions.
  • Colonel Sanders was rejected dozens of times for his fried chicken recipe.  He didn't sell one franchise until the age of 65 when he was on Social Security.
  • Fred Astaire was told:  "Can't sing.  Can't act.  Balding.  Can dance a little."  

If any one of these individuals had given up on their goals after failing, we wouldn't recognize their names today.  Too many people see failure as completely bad.  But failure is part of the process.  It's something we encounter on the road to success.    

It's all about perspective.  I have blogged a lot about authors and how they were finally discovered.  One author, rather than seeing her rejection letters as embarrassing, rather than seeing them as something to throw out, saves them all in a manila enveloppe marked "Tickets to the Game".  While she might not have a "yes" yet, she is still much further ahead than the author who doesn't stick her neck out at all.  At least she's in the game (http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2014/11/tickets-to-game.html).

The concept works in the field of science as well.  When Thomas Edison finally invented the lightbulb, someone asked him how he felt about failing 1000 times.  His response was:  "I never failed 1000 times.  The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps."  Edison didn't apologize for his many failures.  He didn't make excuses.  He simply refused to give up.  He learned from his mistakes. "Failure is one of life's greatest teachers" (http://www.success.com/article/why-failure-is-good-for-success).

Look at the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Sadly, Apollo 1 never made it off the launch pad and its crew died in a deadly fire.  Apollo 13 made it out into space but as it approached the moon it had a major mechanical failure and had to circle the moon and return home.  But Apollo 11 did reach the moon, making the Americans the winners of the Space Race, and later of the Cold War.  The Space program involved great risk, but it also reaped great rewards.

Author John Maxwell wrote Failing Forward:  Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones to Success (https://www.amazon.ca/Failing-Forward-Turning-Mistakes-Stepping/dp/1491513136).  He reminds his readers that "great success depends on great risk".  He recommends to his readers to "confidently look the prospect of failure in the eye...to stop failing backwards and start failing forwards."  While society doesn't reward defeat, it does recognize those who turned their mistakes into stepping stones to success, like an author and her rejection slips or Thomas Edison and his lightbulb or the Space Race and its rockets.

Don't shy away from failure.  Embrace it...until you succeed.

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