Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Are You Willing to Fail?

“We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.” 

Having read several of Dr. Feynman's books I can say without hesitation that he was a funny person and willing to try all kinds of new things. The "problem" with trying new things is that you just might fail. Of course, it is only a problem if failure really gets to you. And the problem with it really getting to you is that if it does, you live a boring life, only doing things that you know will work.

Many people know about Thomas Edison, the "Wizard of Menlo Park" and his failures while trying to make an electric light bulb. He famously once said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Perhaps less well known than his trials with the light bulb is that he had some epic failures that were real setbacks. Most importantly, he learned from his mistakes and kept on going.

There is a story told about Tom Watson, the founder of IBM. It seems that Watson had asked to see a newly minted vice-president who had failed on his first assignment costing the company $1 million. Expecting to be fired, the V.P. brought a resignation letter with him. Watson's response to the man was, "I am not going to fire you after I just spent $1 million on your education." This story may be apocryphal as the amount varies from $1 to $10 million and is attributed to both Watson Sr. and Watson Jr., his son.But, regardless of the specifics, the story was circulated within IBM, demonstrating the importance of allowing failure, as does another well-known quote supposedly from Watson Sr. that, “The way to succeed is to double your error rate." In those days, failure was not a problem at IBM as long as it was turned into a learning experience.

The list can go on:
  • 3M Post-It™ notes were created from failed glue that didn't stick very well.
  • Pfizer's Viagra™ effect on the coronary arteries was not enough to make it a useful angina treatment but it was great as an E.D. drug.
  • Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 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.”
  • Mickey Mouse creator Walt Disney dropped out of school at a young age in a failed attempt at joining the army. One of his earlier ventures, Laugh-o-Gram Studios, went bankrupt due to his lack of ability to run a successful business. He was once fired from a Missouri newspaper for “not being creative enough.”

I think you get the picture. Keep trying, learn from your mistakes and you will eventually succeed.

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