Some of the greatest names of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries didn’t find overnight success. Failure has played an integral role in their journeys, and all of these famous names credit their initial failures with providing them with the experiences that led them to eventual success.
The British inventor and founder of the multi-billion dollar Dyson Company knows all about failure – and how essential it is to bringing you closer to perfection. Dyson’s innovative Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaner launched in 1993 and was an immediate triumph, but behind this achievement were 15 years of hard work and 5,126 failed prototypes.
Each failed prototype takes you a step closer to the finished product.
“Everyone gets knocked back, no one rises smoothly to the top without hindrance. The ones who succeed are those who say, right, let’s give it another go.” James Dyson
When you think of Bill Gates you think of the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft. What could he possibly know about failure? But Gates’ first venture, Traf-O-Data, a system that automatically processed data from roadway traffic counters, didn’t even work properly when they tried to showcase it. The company soon folded, but Gates credits the experience as being vital in giving them the knowledge to go on to build Microsoft’s first products a few years later.
Failure is an education: learn from it and apply that knowledge in your next venture.
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Bill Gates
At the age of 22, Oprah Winfrey was fired from her role as co-anchor of the 6 o’clock news on a local Baltimore station. She was moved to daytime TV, where she flourished and was to go on to carve out an incredibly successful career as the queen of daytime TV and a successful business woman in her own right.
Sometimes failure is a journey that leads to us finding our place in the world.
“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” Oprah Winfrey
Steve Jobs was once fired… from Apple. Yes, the face of Apple’s most iconic products was dumped at the age of 30 by the company he founded. But being released from a corporate structure was the catalyst for a period of creativity and experimentation. He was eventually re-hired by Apple and went on to revolutionize consumer technology with products such as the iPod, the iPad and the iPhone.
A change of environment can lead you to think in new ways. Even a forced move can have benefits: look for new people and new ways of thinking to inspire you.
“The greatest artists like Dylan, Picasso and Newton risked failure. And if we want to be great, we’ve got to risk it too.” Steve Jobs
Before Henry Ford, motor cars were hand-built for the elite and were little more than an expensive hobby. Ford took the principles of assembly-line production and applied them to mass-producing motor cars so that they became affordable to a wider section of society, and paved the way for the modern world of transportation as we know it. But success was hard-won, and Ford’s first two ventures ended in failure. By dreaming big and taking risks he won the support of backers and went on to form the Ford Motor Company, manufacturer of the Model T car, the first truly modern motor vehicle.
Share your dreams with others: success is often a team pursuit so surround yourselves with people who will move your dream towards a reality.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.” Henry Ford
A common factor with these success stories is the part that failure played in teaching them what they needed to know to succeed. The difference between successful companies and the ones that fall by the wayside is the perseverance their founders showed in taking their negative experiences and learning everything they could from them to move forward. Failure by itself won’t make you a success, but learning from failure and applying that knowledge is the first step towards true achievement and innovation.
Originally posted in Forbes