Successful high performance thinkers and creators understand the value of failure.
The innovation team at the Silicon Valley company that employed me had a strong motto:
The great inventor, Thomas Edison, understood this idea. He ended his life with 2,332 patents worldwide. You may have forgotten some of his inventions:
— The incandescent light bulb
— The phonograph record
— The motion picture camera
— The carbon microphone, used in telephones until 1980
— A system for electric power distribution
— The fluoroscope
When asked about his failures in inventing a working light bulb, Edison reportedly answered, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that did not work.”
In other words, his failures were a form of success.
So how did Edison do it? How did he become one of the most prolific inventors in history? In a word, attitude.
Here are some of Thomas Edison’s critical quotes:
Genius is one percent inspiration,
ninety-nine percent perspiration.
If we did all the things we are capable of doing,
we would literally astound ourselves.
Opportunity is missed by most people because
it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize
how close they were to success when they gave up.
I find out what the world needs.
Then, I go ahead and invent it.
Hell, there are no rules here—
we’re trying to accomplish something.
Edison had a rare quality—resilience.
Objects like rubber balls have resilience, the ability to spring back into its original shape.
Humans who are resilient have a strong capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, or in Edison’s case, from failures.
How did he do it? He simply did not recognize failure. And this is how the innovators at my Silicon Valley company thought. Fail faster means recognizing that when you are innovating, creating something new that’s never been done before, it is a natural fact that you have to move through a number of “failures” to get to success.
Failures are the norm for successful people.
They do not see failures as stumbling blocks.
They see failures as stepping stones.