Failure is the highway to success. Tom Watson Sr. said, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”
If you study history, you will find out that all stories of success are also stories of great failures. But people don’t see the failures. They only see one side of the picture and they say that person got lucky: “He must have been at the right place at the right time.”
We all know the story of the man called Abraham Lincoln. Just in case you don’t know it, Abe failed in business at the age of 21; was defeated in a legislative race at age 22; failed again in business at age 24; overcame the death of his sweetheart at age 26; had a nervous break-down at age 27; lost a congressional race at age 34; lost a senatorial race at age 45; failed in an effort to become vice-president at age 47; lost a senatorial race at age 49; and was elected president of the United States at 52. Would you call him a failure? He could have quit. But to Lincoln, defeat was a detour and not a dead end.
In 1913, Lee De Forest, inventor of the triode tube, was charged by the district attorney for using fraudulent means to mislead the public into buying stocks of his company by claiming that he could transmit the human voice across the Atlantic. He was publicly humiliated. Can you imagine where we would be without his invention?
A New York Times editorial on December 10, 1903 questioned the wisdom of the Wright Brothers who were trying to invent a machine heavier than air that would fly. One week later, at Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brothers took their famous flight.
Colonel Sanders, at age 65, with a beat-up car and a $100 cheque from Social Security, realized he had to do something. He remembered his mother’s recipe and went out selling. How many doors did he have to knock on before he got his first order? It is estimated that he had knocked at more than a thousand doors before he got his first order. Today, he owns one of the biggest fast food joints in the world. How many of us quit after three tries, ten tries, a hundred tries, and then we say we tried as hard as we could?
As a young cartoonist, Walt Disney faced many rejections from newspaper editors, who said he had no talent. One day a minister at a church hired him to draw some cartoons. Disney was working on a small mouse – infested shed near the church. After seeing a small mouse, he was inspired. That was the start of Mickey Mouse.
Successful people don’t do great things; they only do small things in a great way.
One day a partially deaf four–year–old kid came home with a note in his pocket from his teacher, “Your Tommy is too stupid to learn, get him out of the school.” His mother read the note and answered, “My Tommy is not stupid to learn, I will teach him myself”. And that Tommy grew up to be the great Thomas Edison. Thomas Edison had only three months of formal schooling and he was partially deaf.
Do you consider these people failures? They succeeded in spite of problems; not in the absence of them. But to the outside world, it appears as though they just got lucky.
All success stories are stories of great failures. The only difference is that every time they failed, they bounced back. This is called failing forward, rather than backward. You learn and move forward. Learn from your failure and keep going.
In 1914, Thomas Edison, at age 67, lost his factory, which was worth a few million dollars, to fire. It had very little insurance. No longer a young man, Edison watched his lifetime effort go up in smoke and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burnt up. Thank God we can start anew.” In spite of the disaster, three weeks later, he invented the phonograph. What an attitude!
Setbacks are inevitable in life. A setback can act as a driving force and also teach us humility. In grief, you will find courage and faith to overcome the setback. We need to learn to become victors, not victims; fear and doubt short – circuit the mind.
Henry Ford forgot to put the reverse gear in the first car he made. Thomas Edison failed approximately 10,000 times while he was working on the light bulb. Henry Ford was broke at the age of 40. Lee Lacocca was fired by Henry Ford 11 at the age of 54. Young Beethoven was told that he had no talent for music, but he gave some of the best music to the world.
Ask yourself after every setback: what did I learn from this experience? Only then will you be able to turn a stumbling block into a stepping-stone.
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