Sweet Smell of Failure


Henrylito D. Tacio

Mr. Tacio, who hails from Davao, is a correspondent of the Asian edition of Reader’s Digest. He is the first and only Filipino journalist to have been elevated to the Hall of Fame in science reporting by the Philippine Press Institute. In 1999, the Rotary Club of Manila bestowed him the Journalist of the Year award. He is also East Asia’s contributing editor of the People & the Planet based in London.

For comments, henrytacio@gmail.com

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki

Breathes there a man or woman who has never experienced failure. In fact, they have struggled their way out to become what they are now. As famous American author Truman Capote said, “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

American inventor and businessman Thomas Alva Edison held a world record of 1093 patents for inventions. Perhaps, greatest challenge was the development of a practical incandescent, electric light. Contrary to popular belief, he didn’t “invent” the lightbulb but rather he improved upon a 50-year-old idea.

In 1879, using lower current electricity, a small carbonized filament, and an improved vacuum inside the globe, he was able to produce a reliable, long-lasting source of light. The idea of electric lighting was not new, and a number of people had worked on, and even developed forms of electric lighting. But up to that time, nothing had been developed that was remotely practical for home use.

After experimenting more than 200 different substances, a colleague told him: “You have failed more than 200 times; why don’t you give up?” Edison replied, “Not at all. I have discovered more than 200 things that will not work. I will soon find one that will.”

After one and a half years of work, success was achieved when an incandescent lamp with a filament of carbonized sewing thread burned for thirteen and a half hours.

Edison’s case reminded me the words of US Senator Robert F. Kennedy. “Only those who dare to fail greatly,” he said, “can ever achieve greatly.”

“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable,” Coco Chanel wrote in Believing in Ourselves: The Wisdom of Women. To which American actress Marilyn Monroe agreed. “Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fall at everything,” the Hollywood goddess pointed out.

People remember Henry Ford as the man who brought automobile to the Americans. But not many know that the Ford Motor Company was the fourth – yes, fourth! – car company that he started. The first three ended in failure.

For the fourth one, Ford had already learned his lessons well enough. And so, he made his cars reasonably priced and quality cars for the masses by nearly single handled investing the assembly line.

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes,” commented British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. On another occasion, he said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

“We gain wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery,” said Scottish author Samuel Smiles.

At one time, a friend sent me a note on why failure is important for success. There are ten reasons why failure comes first before success: it teaches us lessons, builds character, makes us stronger, builds resilience, help us learn, encourages improvement, creates opportunities, encourages thinking, encourages problem solving, and make us more courageous.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new,” said Albert Einstein, considered by most to be one of history’s most prominent geniuses. Despite this fact, he absolutely understood that people make mistakes and fail sometimes.

If you care to know, Einstein was considered a dull young boy while growing up; he even failed in some classes at school. He had numerous errors in his work. As a matter of fact, his first proof of his most famous work, The Theory of Relativity, had a mathematical error.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure,” reminded Paulo Coelho, author of TheAlchemist.

If you think age is the biggest obstacle for you to achieve success in life, don’t worry. Age doesn’t matter; whether you’re young or old, you can still become who you want to be in life – as long as you don’t abhor failure.

Shirley Temple was only 6 when she became a movie star in her own right when she starred on Bright Eyes. Anne Frank was only 12 when she wrote the famous diary, which was made into a movie.

At age 13, Magnus Carlsen became a chess Grandmaster. Nadia Comaneci, a gymnast from Romania, made history when she scored seven perfect 10.0 and won three gold medals at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada.

Soccer player Pele was only 17 years old when he won the World Cup in 1958 with Brazil. Paul McCartney was only 18 and John Lennon was 20 when the Beatles had their first concert in 1961.

J.K. Rowling was 30 years old when she finished the first manuscript of Harry Potter. “I make mistakes like the next man,” she once said. “In fact, being – forgive me – rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”

Amelia Earthart was 31 years old when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Oprah Winfrey was 32 when she started her talk show, which has become the highestrated program of its kind.

The Wright Brothers – Orville (32) and Wilbur (36) – invented and built the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight.

So many people think failure is not equated with success. But Ellen DeGeneres dispel that myth. “When you take risks,” she said, “you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.”

But it’s Dennis Waitley, an American motivational speaker, writer and consultant, who said it all: “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

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