You've heard it a million times before. We learn by our mistakes. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And so on, and so on. But here's a little story, just to remind you how important mistakes can be.
Mistakes are the portals of discovery -James Joyce
In the late 19th century, in New York, lived a man called Thomas Adams. He tried his hand at many different trades, from photographer to glass merchant. One day he met an exiled Mexican General, who told him about the sapodilla tree, which produces a rubber-like sap. Adams was convinced he could make car tires out of the stuff.
He tried endless experiments, but all of them bombed. He tried making tires, boots, and toys. Nothing worked. He was about to dump his whole cargo into the East River and cut his losses. But then he saw a little girl buying some chewing gum - made from paraffin wax (yuck).
This gave him a great idea, and Adams turned his warehouse full of Mexican chicle to make Chiclets. (In Spanish chewing gum is still called chiclets). Adams then went on to create the biggest selling chewing gum company in North America. What a mistake to make!
There are many examples of famous failures that I find quite inspiring. It seems that we have been sold the idea that being great and having amazing talent is due winning the genetic lottery or just dumb luck. However, in reality, amazing people are those that are willing to fall flat on their face, wipe off the dust and keep on keeping on. To them, failures are an opportunity to learn and grow.
Here are a few great examples of fine failures:
Michael Jordan - Even though he is now a well-respected sportsman and famous basketball player, he was actually cut from his high school basketball team!
Steven Spielberg - It's hard to imagine, now that we know Spielberg as a household name, that he was a high school drop out. Additionally, his application to attend film school was rejected three times due to his C grade average.
Beethoven - He was told by his early music professor that he was a hopeless composer.
Winston Churchill - Suffered a speech impediment in his early years and performed very poorly in school. However, he rose above this to become a respected British Prime Minister.
Charles Darwin - Was told by his father that he would never amount to anything and would probably be a disgrace to his family.
Albert Einstein - Was called sloppy and disorderly by his teachers and concerned his parents by not speaking properly until he was nine. Additionally, he failed his university entrance exam in 1895 to the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School.
Thomas Edison - His elementary teacher told him that he was too stupid to learn anything.
John Grisham - Was very persistent with his first novel even though it was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses.
Isaac Newton - Was a terrible student at school and failed when he attempted to run the family farm.
The Beatles- They were famously rejected by Decca Recording Studios, who told them : We don't like your sound, you have no future in show business.
Walt Disney - He had a job as editor of a newspaper, but was fired as he lacked ideas and creativity.
As Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers - The Story of Success Concludes:
Genius is over-rated. Success is not just about innate ability. It's combined with a number of key factors such as opportunity, meaningful hard work (10,000 hours to gain mastery), and your cultural legacy.
So, from now on, why not think of failure as a verb instead of an adjective. A verb is an activity that we partake in for a short period of time, where as an adjective is a permanent label. Making mistakes plays a huge part in success. Therefore the more failures that you are willing to have, the further that life will take you!
Images supplied by FOTOLIA