How Failure Is a Friend

  • Her first job was inspecting parachutes during World War II
  • This person lost her first job at Dunkin’ Donuts for squirting jelly filling all over a customer.
  • His first five businesses left him broke.
  • This other person’s first seven businesses failed.
  • As her first films were complete failures, she was dubbed “Queen of the B movies.”
  • Another person was fired by his copy editor because he “lacked imagination.”
  • He lost his first job as a copy boy for the New Yorker when he went to see a performance by Robert Frost and had to leave in the middle because he had the flu. Frost was so insulted that he demanded he be fired…which he was.
  • This person blew up his laboratory (and his brother) in his attempt to develop dynamite.
  • After this person’s book was rejected by 12 publishers, it eventually DID sell…for $4,000.
  • This person’s idea was rejected by over a thousand restaurants before one finally tried it.
  • This one was rejected by three film schools due to his C average as a high school dropout.
  • She got fired as a news editor because she couldn’t sever her emotions from her stories.
  • As he did not speak until he was four, and did not read until he was seven, his parents and teachers thought he was mentally handicapped.
  • This person did so poorly in school and that his parents took him and put him in charge of the family farm, where he failed so miserably that his uncle sent him off to Cambridge.

However, it was at Cambridge that Isaac Newton discovered that he was a mathematical genius. He is now regarded as one of the most influential scholars in the history of science, and the term “Newtonian” is used by the scientific world to describe bodies of knowledge that owed their existence to his theories.

(We’ll discover who the rest of these people were in a minute.)

However, I imagine that all of them…when being fired…or failing miserably for the umpteenth time…at times dubbed themselves as ‘failures.”

So let’s learn how they used those failures as a gift to themselves, and a gift to you and me.

First…why do we take failure so hard?  The answer is deceptively simple: success is achieved through trying, and trying anything new usually leads, by its very nature…at first…to failure.

For instance, nearly all new athletes fail most times in attempting a goal, a hit, or a basket. In addition, the majority of scientists are wrong most of the time. In fact, the rate of failure and the heartbreak associated with failure is part and parcel of our everyday lives.

So how is failure a gift? Because, as Hannah Bloch recently wrote for National Geographic, “…without the sting of failure to spur us to reassess and rethink, progress would be impossible.” Failure forces us to rethink or reevaluate how we do things, and to learn how to do them better. It adds a road block, ups the ante, and forces us to get creative with the world.

This is what we do best.

Think about the practice of science itself: the most common outcome from any experiment is failure.  Most successful science is generated by refuting our hypotheses, by demonstrating we were wrong and that our earlier attempts were failures. It is the examination of the details of the failures, the reconstituting of our approaches that gets us closer to success.  Think about the development of electric lights, antibiotics, the Internet… all great successes whose antecedents were rife with failures.

Now…not all failures turn into successes and many are indeed insurmountable.

But that is not the point.

It is your ability to imagine, to hope, and to work towards seemingly impossible or improbable goals that plays such a core role in how you can learn and grow and change.

So next time you fail, remember that you are in great company. All of them exercised the Gift of Failure by going back and trying again,.

Just ask:

  • Marilyn Monroe whose first job was inspecting parachutes during World War II.l
  • Madonna who lost her first job at Dunkin’ Donuts for squirting jelly filling all over a customer.
  • Henry Ford whose first five businesses left him broke.
  • Rowland Hussey Macy whose first seven businesses failed.
  • Lucille Ball (of “I Love Lucy”) who was dubbed “Queen of the B movies.”
  • Walt Disney who was fired by his copy editor because he “lacked imagination.”
  • J. K. Rowling whose first book was rejected by 12 publishers, although it did eventually sell for $4,000. As the author of the Harry Potter series. she is now more wealthy than the Queen of England
  • Colonel Sanders whose recipe was rejected by 1,009 restaurants before one finally tried it.
  • Steven Spielberg, who was rejected by three film schools due to his being a high school dropout.
  • Oprah Winfrey who got fired as a news editor because she couldn’t sever her emotions from her stories.
  • Truman Capote, who lost his first job as a copy boy for the New Yorker because Robert Frost insisted that he be fired.
  • Albert Einstein, who did not speak until he was four, and did not read until he was seven.

Alfred Nobel

 

 

And finally, Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite, lost his brother, and began the trust for the Nobel Prize.

By |June 29th, 2015|Comments Off on How Failure Is a Friend

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