The Importance of Failure

Imagine if you were labeled “the merchant of death.”  Would you consider yourself a failure?  That’s exactly how Alfred Nobel felt after his invention of dynamite led to such a label.


Despite having 355 patents to his name, Nobel wanted to do something more; he wanted to leave a legacy not associated with death, which led him to create the Nobel Prizes in peace, literature, and science.  The feeling of failure motivated Nobel to do something that has impacted the world.  Good thing he did not give up.

Good thing NASA did not give up after the Mars Climate Orbiter burned up in its orbit of the Red Planet in 1999.  This failure cost over $125 million, and it was caused by navigation software using metric units and thrusters using English measurements.  It’s almost hard to comprehend how this was missed in the design of the orbiter, but it was, and without question many people contemplated giving up.  Thanks to the lessons learned from the Climate Orbiter failure, however, NASA has since successfully placed several rovers on Mars.


George S. Patton knew a few things about coming up short, and it lead him to conclude, “I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”  How high do you bounce when you hit bottom, when you encounter failure?  How well do you use the lessons from coming up short to make yourself even more effective the next time?

One of history’s greatest lessons is that we can learn as much or more from failure as we do success.  It may not be enjoyable to experience, but failure is often the catalyst we need to spur us on to something better.

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