Can You Succeed By Failing?

“If You Try to Fail and Succeed, Which Have You Done” ….. George Carlin

Recently my wife and I spent a couple of weeks in the Fort Myers, Florida area. While there I happened to notice an ad on TV for the Edison Festival of Lights Parade. This is a celebration of Thomas Edison’s life and is held every February in Fort Myers. I guess I hadn’t realized that Fort Myers was the winter home of both Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford. You can visit their winter estates in Fort Myers and this is on my list for the next time we are in Fort Myers.

My first job out of college was as a pharmaceutical rep in northwest Ohio. Part of my territory was a very small town just south of Sandusky, Ohio called Milan, Ohio. My first time into the town I passed a historical marker that said home of Thomas A. Edison.  I soon learned that Milan was the birthplace of Thomas A. Edison and he lived there until approximately the age of six.

Most people know Thomas Edison as the inventor of the incandescent light bulb. Not only was he the creator of the modern light bulb, but he also invented the motion picture camera, the phonograph, and many other products. He held over 1000 patents and was one of the founders of the General Electric company.

This post isn’t really about Thomas Edison. This post is about succeeding by failing. Thomas Edison conducted over 3000 experiments and had 3000 failures until he succeeded the one time in inventing the filament for the light bulb. Thomas Edison said “ Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

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The above quote is a good reminder that, as we live our day-to-day life, we tend to forget this very important message. We end up thinking that everyone that succeeds has had nothing but success all their life and that they had it easy. Who can blame you, I mean by the time we hear about someone making it the focus is on the success and not on the long hard struggle to get there. The truth is everyone that has succeeded has failed. Some have failed miserably. Failure is a part of the game of life. Failing is trying. Without trying we never have a shot at succeeding. The quicker you can deal with failure the quicker you are ready for success. Each failure is a building block to success. Some people cannot deal with failure so they never try anything new. The result is nothing. Nothing can happen without action. Life is all about taking action and taking risks.

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something, because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people “                                                  -Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture-

Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan

If you want to succeed you have to be willing to do something extra. To go beyond the regular restraints and do more. You have to have the guts to pick yourself up after you fall and try again and again until you find the right fit.

Babe Ruth, one of the greatest baseball players ever, had a lifetime batting average of .342 and was the first player to hit 60 home runs in one season. The 342 batting average means that every time Babe Ruth came up to bat he hit the ball 34% of the time and therefore failed 66% of the time. Do you consider Babe Ruth of failure?

Michael Jordan said, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Do you consider Michael Jordan a failure?

Never Give Up

Failures are lessons. From each failure you gain knowledge and experience that will help you succeed.  That is why you should never be afraid of failing because there’s absolutely nothing to fear. In the game of life no one plays a perfect game. If you think that some people lead perfect lives it’s your perception but certainly not reality.

Live your life. Don’t be afraid of failing. Welcome it. Be ready for it but be ready to succeed because in the end you will.



See the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch here