Finding Success Through Failure
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines success as “a: degree or measure of succeeding, b: favorable or desired outcome (Merriam-Webster).” Whether we’re competing in sports or academic competitions, in our youth, we are raised to equate winning with success, and to find success in adulthood we must get a good job by graduating from college. Society teaches us to measure success by the volume of accolades, wealth, and social status achieved. As we get older our needs and desires change; we realize that success isn’t defined by obtaining rewards and fame but rather measured by the wisdom gained from failing and the courage to fail again.
Many would argue that failure is the opposite of success, but one must know failure to achieve success. Thomas Edison is one of the most prolific innovators of history. He individually or jointly holds 1,093 patents. Edison was a fruitful entrepreneur, best known for inventing the light bulb, phonograph, and the moving picture camera (History.Com Editors). Edison’s track record suggests he achieved success by the standards of society, achieving wealth and fame; however, each of his successful inventions derived from many failures. It’s believed that it took over ten thousand prototypes of the light bulb for Edison to get it right (Furr).
Edison often spoke of how he perceived failure as success, most notably in a 1921 article in American Magazine, entitled, “Why Do So Many Men Never Amount to Anything?” by B. C. Forbes, Edison explained that he didn’t let failure discourage him because he viewed each failure as a successful way that something wouldn’t work, therefore needing to try a different way to get an invention to work. When his colleagues complained about a prototype failing, Edison would give them an encouraging smile and say, “Now we know that way isn’t the right way” (Forbes).
If we fail at something once and give up, we’ll never know success. In their article, “James Dyson: How Persistence Leads to Success,” Fred Whelan and Gladys Stone use the story of James Dyson as an example to explain how persistence and failure are needed for success. According to Whelan and Stone, Dyson created 5,000 prototypes of his famous Dyson Cyclone Vacuum cleaner before he built a successful model and was then rejected by several major U.S. companies before finding a Japanese company, Apex, to manufacture his vacuum cleaner. Whelan and Stone claim that once Dyson’s vacuum was introduced to the U.S. it was met with instant success. Whelan and Stone suggest that by not giving up, success can be achieved (Whelan & Stone).
By age 25 I owned a comic book and collectibles store. I owned and operated this business for several years but ultimately the business was unsuccessful and I had to close the doors. Many would view this venture as a failure; however, I would argue that it was successful because by owning this business I was forced to learn valuable skills such as business management, bookkeeping, accounting, customer service, and inventory management. Skills that I use to this day in my of my other ventures. Another reason that this business was successful is that by owning this business I met many incredible people that have turned into life-long friendships and have built a valuable network of support.
It’s easy to fail at something and easier to give up. Success requires the courage to fail and the strength to keep going. In my lifetime, I’ve had failed jobs, failed relationships, and failed businesses. It has taught me two things about success. The first: if you don’t try, you can’t fail and if you can’t fail, you can’t succeed. Most importantly the second: life experience equals success because those experiences give us the wisdom to overcome our failures.
At some point, you’ve probably heard a popular version of the inspirational quote, “Try and try again.” The most successful people have found their success through their failures and their fortitude. Success is measured by the wisdom gained from life experience, the courage to fail, and the persistence to keep going. Don’t be discouraged by failure, instead take notes, then “Try and try again.”
Forbes, B. C. “Why Do So Many Men Never Amount to Anything?” American Magazine (1921): 10 and 89. Magazine. 12 October 2020.
History.Com Editors. Thomas Edison. Vers. June 6, 2019. 9 November 2009. Web Page. 12 October 2020. <https://www.history.com/topics/inventions/thomas-edison>.
Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. n.d. Website. 11 October 2020. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/success>.
Whelan and Stone, Fred and Gladys. “James Dyson: How Persistence Leads to Success.” 15 December 2009. Huffpost. Article. 12 October 2020. <https://www.huffpost.com/entry/james-dyson-how-persisten_b_392824>.