Failure: The Essential Ingredient

April 29, 2019
James Whittaker

Check out this episode on the Win the Day Podcast

“The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Thomas Edison

There’s one element that all those who have achieved enormous success hold in high esteem: failure. Whether industry titans of old, such as Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford, or more contemporary worldbeaters, such as Oprah Winfrey and Jeff Bezos, failure has been the catalyst to not only creating extraordinary wealth but maintaining it too.

The headline quote from Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors in history, was written by a man who, from the moment he set his mind to a definite chief aim, was obsessed with the goal until it became a reality.

Incredulously, before unveiling the world’s first lightbulb for practical use, Edison went through more than 3,000 designs for light bulbs and another 6,000 tests trying to find the right material for the filament. He would go on to hold more than 1,000 patents, and his other inventions—such as the motion picture camera and phonograph—transformed almost every industry on Earth. “When I have fully decided that a result is worth getting, I go about it, and make trial after trial, until it comes,” the American once said.

While Edison’s obsession might seem crazy to outsiders, it was a perfectly rational state of mind to the man himself. Think about today’s true innovators and changemakers, from Sara Blakely to Elon Musk and the late Steve Jobs: all have been described by adjectives far harsher than “crazy”.  

Edison’s close friend, Waltor Mallory, once visited the inventor in his workshop. Having personally observed some of the countless hours of dedication, effort and sacrifice, Mallory lamented the lack of results. With a smile, Edison quickly replied, “Results? I have gotten lots of results! I now know several thousand things that won’t work.”

That simple response sums up Thomas Edison’s growth mindset and reveals how he became such a prolific achiever, despite not having a formal education.

Those with a growth mindset:

  • Embrace challenges
  • Persist in the face of adversity
  • View mastery as a long journey that requires sustained effort
  • Learn from feedback and criticism, and
  • Take inspiration from others

In contrast, those with a fixed mindset:

  • Avoid challenges
  • Give up when things get tough
  • Look for shortcuts to get ahead
  • Resent feedback and criticism, and
  • Feel threatened by the success of others

To win in the long-term, you must open yourself up to the prospect of losing in the short-term, or longer. Simply continuing is one of the surest paths to success, but so many people give up because they accept temporary failure as permanent defeat. This is true in ALL areas of life; in fact, you can probably think of at least one person who remains bitter despite a divorce or business hardship that occurred years prior.

If you allow yourself to be defined by how you’ve been wronged or some other misfortune, you’ll go through life with a chip on your shoulder and likely stay within an ever-shrinking comfort zone. However, those who keep their sights on long-term victory—and can quickly dust themselves off when they do fail—are the ones who enjoy far greater happiness and success.

Embrace failure because it means you’ve tried.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos understands this better than most. “I’ve made billions of failures at Amazon. Literally,” he was quoted. Further reinforcing his counterintuitive love for hardship, Bezos wrote to his shareholders, “I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!)” But he is acutely aware that every failure increases his chance of hitting a home run, as Amazon has done with numerous innovations that catapulted the company from a simple online bookstore to, on 7 January 2019, officially becoming the world’s most valuable company

Even with the recent breakdown of their 25-year marriage, Bezos and his partner MacKenzie were able to quickly and amicably move on, wishing each other well, reducing any undue pressure on their four children, and calming nervous Amazon shareholders.

True innovators like Edison, Bezos, Winfrey, Jobs and Musk do not view the word ‘failure’ as a negative. Rather, they view it as an omnipresent companion on the journey to achievement—a stepping stone to success. Every failure brings us closer to success, just as surrendering to adversity guarantees defeat. 

In fact, the quote for today’s episode in its entirety is: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Choose to be a victor rather than a victim. Regardless of what life throws your way, promise to try just one more time

Onwards and upwards always, 
James W.

In case you missed it:
‘The Secret to Happiness’

60 quotes to overcome failure:

“The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison

“If people should take anything from my music, it should be motivation to know that anything is possible as long as you keep working at it and don’t back down.” – Eminem

“All people have fears, but the brave put down their fears and go forward—sometimes to death, but always to victory.” – Dale Carnegie

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” –  Napoleon Hill

“The only easy day was yesterday.” – US Navy SEALs

 “Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” –  J.K. Rowling

“Fall down seven times. Stand up eight.” – Proverb

“Let’s go invent tomorrow rather than worrying about what happened yesterday.” – Steve Jobs

“Failure is success in progress.” – Albert Einstein

“Never accept temporary failure as permanent defeat.” – James Whittaker 

“If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.” – Jonathan Winters

“Find a way or make a way.” – Elon Musk 

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” – John Wooden

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney

“At any moment you can make a decision to change your life.” – Janine Shepherd

“Failure is a stepping stone to greatness.” – Oprah Winfrey

“If I had listened to the naysayers, I would still be in the Austrian Alps yodeling.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger 

“Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell 

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison

“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” – Susan Jeffers

“You have to be able to accept failure to get better.” – Lebron James

“Fear is the result of a lack of confidence. A lack of confidence is the result of not knowing what you can do. A lack of knowing what you can do is caused by a lack of experience. A lack of experience is caused by a lack of doing something new.” – Dale Carnegie 

“Most great people have achieved their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” – Napoleon Hill 

“The freedom to fail is vital if you’re going to succeed. Most successful people fail time and time again, and it is a measure of their strength that failure merely propels them into some new attempt at success.” – Michael Korda

 “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford 

“Even if we crash and burn, and lose everything, the experience will have been worth ten times the cost.” – Steve Jobs 

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden 

“Sometimes an expensive lesson is worth every penny.” – Noel Whittaker

“It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.” – Ellen DeGeneres

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill 

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

“Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it. That is the quickest and surest way to conquer fear.” – Dale Carnegie

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“You can’t discover new oceans unless you have the courage to leave the shore.” – Anonymous

“Thinking will not overcome your fear, but action will.” – W. Clement Stone

“Take a chance! All life is a chance. The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.” – Dale Carnegie 

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs­

“All is possible for the believers.” – Laird Hamilton

 “Action breeds confidence and courage.” – Dale Carnegie

“I’ve made billions of failures at Amazon. Literally.” – Jeff Bezos

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Bernard Baruch

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you’re not innovating enough.” – Elon Musk

“Right actions for the future are the best apologies for wrong ones in the past.” – Tyron Edwards

 “You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.” – Dale Carnegie

 “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” – Babe Ruth 

“Bravery is the solution to regret.” – Robin Sharma 

“Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.” – Robert Greene 

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Reinhold Niebuhr (Serenity Prayer)

“Know your enemy, and know yourself, and you’ll never be in peril.” – Sun Tzu

“The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.” – Neale Donald Walsch 

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield

 “I believe we [Amazon] are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!).” – Jeff Bezos

“The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.” – Steve Maraboli

“Try and enjoy yourself. Because, actually, life’s pretty good.” – Elon Musk

 “If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg

“You can’t have courage without fear.” – Jocko Willink

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