Thomas Edison on Failure

The MOOCS are Coming, The MOOCS are Coming!So how do you take failure? Do you simply move onto something else, or do you double-down and take another cut at the challenge that just floored you? Do you have a rep at work or with friends that characterizes you as someone who never gives up?

Thomas Edison was fond of saying … “I can never find the things that work best until I know the things that don’t work.”

That “Edisonian” style of stubborn perseverance is often the hallmark of successful inventors and entrepreneurs … people who change the world. When searching for the right, long-life filament for his nascent electric light bulb technology, legend has it the great inventor tried several thousand different materials, before he found the right one.

“Results! Why man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.”

Remember this important fact. During Edison’s career, he filled 4,000 laboratory notebooks-about 3200 of them were the large ledger type volumes and 800 were small notebooks. This is the kind of man who carefully documented and constantly re-visited his notes to look for places for improvement- always learning from failure.

While perfecting his famous nickel-iron storage batteries, he is said to have quipped to a reporter’s admonishment on his lack of success …

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Undaunted, Thomas Edison went on to develop a legendary battery that was used in many applications the world over; in fact, it was probably his most profitable product.

At the Edison Foundations we find great guidance in Edison’s work ethic and never give-up attitude. This valuable advice came early in life from his mother, Nancy Elliot Edison, who home-schooled the young boy.

We have coined our own version of Mr. Edison’s spirit, “Fail your way to success!”

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said ……“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.


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