The Folly of Accepting Failure

When is failure not really failure?

Let’s look at some of the biggest “failures” in history to determine if we can answer that question.

Harland David Sanders. This guy knew chicken! He had himself a great recipe but not everyone agreed. Perhaps better known as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, Sanders had a hard time selling his chicken at first. In fact, his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1009 times before a restaurant accepted it. 1009 rejections, or “failures” and yet no one can deny the Colonel’s incredible success. I guess this isn’t really an example of failure.

Akio Morita. Not exactly a household name but maybe you have heard of the little company he built. It’s known as Sony. Sony’s first product was a rice cooker that didn’t actually cook rice so much as burn it, less than 100 units were sold. This setback didn’t stop him and his partners as they worked to create a multi-billion dollar company. I guess this isn’t really an example of failure either.

Thomas Edison. Early on, teachers told Edison he was “too dumb to learn anything.” Work was just a bad, he was fired from his first two jobs for not being good enough. As an inventor, Edison made 1000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. 1000 unsuccessful attempts by the guy who eventually gave us light. I guess this isn’t really an example of failure after all.

Abraham Lincoln: While today he is remembered as one of the greatest leaders ever, honest Abe’s life wasn’t so easy. In his youth he went to war as a captain and returned a private. (failure of that magnitude is truly amazing) Lincoln didn’t stop failing there, however. He started numerous failed businesses and was defeated in several runs for public office. But then he became President, the rest as they say is history. If this is what failure looks like we should all be so lucky to fail.

Vincent Van Gogh. During his lifetime, Van Gogh sold only one painting, and this was to a friend and only for a very small amount of money. While Van Gogh never appeared to be a success during his lifetime, he plugged away with painting, sometimes starving to complete his over 800 known works. Today, they bring in hundreds of millions. Sometimes you may not have the opportunity to experience your own success but that does not mean you’re a failure either.

The Beatles. These guys haven’t made a record in a while but nobody can really deny the lasting power of this incredible group; still popular with around the world today. Yet when they were just starting out, a recording company told them no. They were told “we don’t like your sound, and guitar music is on the way out,” two things the rest of the world couldn’t have disagreed with more. The lesson here is that failure doesn’t last…. unless we allow it to.

Babe Ruth. You probably know Babe Ruth because of his home run record, (714 during his career), or the candy bar NOT named after him, but along with all those home runs came a huge number of strikeouts (1,330 in all). In fact, for decades he held the record for strikeouts. When asked about this he simply said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” Yet another lesson in the incredible power of perseverance.

Coca-Cola. My personal favorite example of perseverance however comes from a company that I do business with nearly everyday. Coca-Cola sold 25 bottles of Coke their first year. It would have been so easy to simply accept their failure and give up. They kept going. Things worked out okay. Today 1.7 billion servings of Coke, (in bottles, cans, and glasses) are served each DAY.

Each of these examples provide a lesson in the power of fortitude, the power of never never never giving up. Imagine if these people had given up just one day sooner. We might be sitting in the dark, listening to ABBA on a 78 RPM record, eating bad chicken, and drinking water in a divided USA.

Failure, as it turns out is only failure when we fail to try again. Never never give up and most importantly, never never never give up on you!

13 thoughts on “The Folly of Accepting Failure

  1. I just watched an Ahmad Rashād interview of MJ last night, which showed the man who has surpassed this “folly” long ago – truly wonder if he ever had it?! Also, posted this same quote to all of my networks, as my 13 yr old’s comp soccer team needed a pick-me-up after a heart-wrenching defeat to penalty kicks! Well written!

    • Thanks Karl, I wonder the same thing about MJ. It would be interesting to know if he thinks if overcame the “folly” or if he never suffered from it in the first place. His is an amazing story that shows what a human being can accomplish when the decide that they can’t be stopped.

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