Lincoln, Einstein, Disney . . .

Lincoln, Einstein, Disney . . .

The thought or idea of failure scares the living out of every human being.The  potential exposure to ridicule and the fear of  looking like an idiot before our friends and families is enough to stop anyone from trying something if we are not sure we can succeed 100 percent at it.

Yet, we all know there’s no success story we have read today that did not have a lot of failure surrounding it.What those stories teach us is, if we want to succeed, we must be willing to fail.

I thought I might share my 5 of my  favourite failure stories and some personal thoughts.

 1. Abraham Lincoln: As a young man, Abraham Lincoln went to war a captain and returned a private. Afterwards, he was a failure as a businessman. As a lawyer in Springfield, he was too impractical and temperamental to be a success. He turned to politics and was defeated in his first try for the legislature, again defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for congress, defeated in his application to be commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858. At about that time, he wrote in a letter to a friend, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth.”


2. Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4-years-old and did not read until he was 7. His parents thought he was “subnormal,” and one of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.” He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zürich Polytechnic School. He did eventually learn to speak and read. Even to do a little math.


3. Steve Jobs: “So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’” ~ Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer.


4. J.K. Rowlings: 12 publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s book about a boy wizard before a small London house picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.


5. Walt Disney: Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff.

Thomas J Watson was once quoted as saying “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate”. It does sound counter-intuitive given our understanding of success and how we view people we consider ‘failures‘.


Some personal thoughts:


1. No one is really scared of failure. What scares us is shame. What our friends, family or even people we don’t know or care about will say or think about us. This thought forces us to retrieve into our ‘comfort zone’ and we never dare anything.


2.To succeed, we must constantly court failure. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying to start looking for ‘so how can I fail today?’. What I mean is,we can only fully appreciate success and work hard for what we want if we know there is potential for failure. The potential for failure is like pushing that heavy weight up to build our muscles. The hard the weight and the harder we push, the stronger our muscles get. And you know what happens when the weight is on you and you don’t push it back up, it crushes you!


3. Failure is an opportunity to try again and do it better.As the legend goes,it took Thomas Edison 1,000 tries to invent the light bulb.Soon after Edison revealed his earth-shattering invention, a French reporter asked, “Mr. Edison, how did it feel to fail 999 times?” As the story goes, Thomas Edison just smiled and replied, “Young man, I have not failed 999 times. I have simply found 999 ways how not to create a light bulb.”

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