What Can Thomas Edison Teach Us About Success (through Failure)

Failure happens. It happens all the time, to everyone, and sometimes can have a bad effect on us depending on the way we react to it.

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Failure, like many other things, is something we have got used to through the years. To some it has become a lifestyle, an ingrained habit we just can’t break if we don’t have the right mindset.

The greatest example, when it comes down to failure, is the American inventor Thomas Edison.
He failed more than 10,000 times (I am still amazed at that number!) before he created the light bulb.

That makes him a true example of perseverance.

What helped him was understanding a few things – defining success and failure, realizing the inevitable connection between them, never giving up, working hard, believing in himself and his ideas.

Of course, in many situations things looked so hopeless and pointless that the average person would have given up on his work. But not him.

Many people told him that he is wasting his time, his faith and confidence were sometimes on the verge of being gone, but he succeeded. Many times.

The fruits of his labor were 1093 patents, including the bulb, the phonograph, the motion picture camera, the printing telegraph apparatus, typewriting machines, telephones and many other things we can’t live without today.

If it wasn’t for him and other great people in the history – leaders, scientists, businessmen, inventors and so on – we wouldn’t have electricity, running water, cars, TV, computers and all the other things that make our life comfortable and easy.

Imagine what the world would be like if every one of them just gave up on his ideas to try something new, to change the world and help people. Just imagine…

Failure must be understood perfectly in order for us to be successful and follow our dreams.

So let’s analyze Thomas Edison’s way of thinking by taking a look at his words.

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

He accepts failure. He finds its positive side and realizes that it is something as normal as success. And thus we need to learn how to fail before we learn how to succeed.

2. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Giving up is what stopped many people from becoming more, from achieving greatness and changing the world.

Giving up is the state in which our mind shows the white flag, in which it’s easier for us not to move on, not to try one more time and to just listen to the naysayers.

But we can all overcome that point. We can keep believing because everything around us is an example of what happens if someone keeps pushing.

The answer is to just try one more time.

Do it without thinking too much, without analyzing the situation, without listening to the others and without fearing the chance of failing again.

3. “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Remember that no matter what you have achieved so far, no matter how experienced or educated you are and no matter where you come from and where you’re going, you can get what you want by working hard.

[tweetthis]Hard work combined with focus will always have results. So perspire and success will come.[/tweetthis]

4. “There’s a way to do it better – find it.”

As human beings we can change our body and mind however we want. It’s not easy – it never is, but once we’ve done it right, nothing will be able to stand in our way.

Whatever we do, there is always a chance to do it better.

We are born to thrive, improve and evolve and that is why we have to try again and again if we really want something.

5.” When I have fully decided that a result is worth getting I go ahead of it and make trial after trial until it comes.”

You need to know whether your idea is worth it or not. And if it is – never give up on it until you succeed.

Create it in your mind first, reach success there before you actually do it.

And then, after putting in enough effort, after dedicating time and energy, you will start seeing results. You will see your idea in reality and the moment you see someone using what you’ve invented and how it helps people live better – you will know that all the sweat was worth it.

6. “We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.”

Realize and accept how much you don’t know and how more you have to learn.

Every time you try you can fail because of not knowing how to do it right. But that can be changed.

You can learn new things every day and do your best to become professional in your field. Then you will know exactly what to do and how to do it and this time failure won’t be an option.

7. “It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains definitely and systematically to work.”

Focus!

Only a concentrated man can work adequately.
Only a concentrated mind can think of a thousand ways to do one thing and each one of them can be brilliant.

You may be able to work for days without resting, but you are wasting your time if you don’t stay focused.
And sometimes only 60 minutes of concentration a day can bring the best results.

Have these statements in mind next time you try to do something. Remember that failure is a state of mind, just like success, and that makes it something we can control.

Without failure, we can’t succeed. They are connected in a way we can understand only if we accept the former in order to reach the latter.

So here is a summary of the important lessons Thomas Edison wants every generation to learn:

  •  Accept failure;
  •  Never give up;
  •  Work hard;
  •  Find a better way to do it;
  •  Try until you succeed;
  •  Learn and improve so that you don’t fail next time;
  •  Stay focused.

What else can you suggest? How do you handle failure?

Lidiya K

Lidiya K

Author, blogger and podcaster in the fields of self-improvement and life hacking. Creator of Let's Reach Success.
Full-time freelance writer. Lifestyle designer.
Lidiya K

95 Comments

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  1. Thanks for stopping by climbinghigher.org and Story of the Day! Appreciate your support. Love your posts about practical ways to think about success! See you around.

  2. One knows in thier heart whether they truly failed at something, but the word ‘failure’ can be misunderstood. We are accustomed to taking test, exams, and derterming failure on a scale of measurement such as grades. But true failure lies in giving up knowing that you had it in you to reach your goal. This is where I have experienced true failure in my life and for a while it became the norm. By the way I will have my first post up the week of July 1st and you played a part in giving me the inspiration. I’ll also have that video of my 7 minute up as well so my readers can get an idea of my plans. Great post!

    1. This is one of the greatest explanations of failure I’ve heard and I am sure that you’ve experienced it and learnt from it.
      I disagree with many parts of the educational system nowadays and will be writing on that sujbect some day.
      I’m looking forward to your post and video!!!
      And thank you so much for commenting.

  3. Reblogged this on pages of grace and commented:
    A very timely inspirational post for me. Together with a friend, we are planning to do new idea that we’ve never done before but we think it might work for the both of us. I’ve been having lots of doubts and the fear of failure sometimes just consumes me as I weigh out the pros and the cons of our vision. My husband always reminds me of Edison’s 10,000 ways that didn’t work. They were not failures; they were lessons on how he should not do things.

    Thank you, Lidiya, for posting this! Timing was perfect….

    1. I’m so happy you find my post helpful and inspirational.
      Good luck with your project. Whatever it is, if you follow Thomas Edison’s tips you’ll achieve your goals – it’s just a matter of time. I see you have a great support, so that will be another reason to thank the people who believe in you by sticking with your idea and working hard on it.
      Ignore doubts – they are the distractions, the perils of success; accept fear and try to take control of it – in my experience, the best way to do that is by just doing the things you’re scared of.
      So keep your head up and stay positive! Let me know how things are going when you have some progress.

  4. My preference and a perspective I encourage others to consider is to “Embrace,” not just accept, failure. Welcome it. Anticipate it. And revel in it because it’s going to make one stronger and more determined.

  5. This is an inspiring post, Lidiya.

    Personally, I usually do not mind my failures, but I take note of them, learn from them. I just feel discouraged by these failures only when I begin to compare myself with others.

    1. Well, that’s really good for you. It all comes down to how you react to failures, how you define them and whether you let them influence you or not.
      But many people – including myself – are disappointed by the way they’ve done something. And I want them to know that failure is actually a good thing, because after that we are much stronger, more experienced and closer to success.
      Thank you for your comment.

  6. Great Blog.. I really don’t like the word “failure” I rather say “Not a success, (Yet)”… does something different to the brain. I love the reference to Thomas Edison too. I do a workshop on Perseverance and Persistence and make reference to Abraham Lincoln (who also tried, tried and tried again until he succeeded) and the one I love the most because it is explained so well visually and auditor ally, digitally (sequential his life) and it touches the heart (Kinesthetic) is the movie “Forrest Gump”. There are many ways it shows both persistence (every day going out in the shrimp boat, lowering the net praying for shrimp) and collectively they so perseverance.

    1. Thank you for your comment!
      Failure is indeed a negative word, but we shouldn’t be afraid of it or ignore it, because it is a big part of our lives. The question is how do we handle it.
      Abraham Lincoln is another great example of perseverance. There are many role models in the history and I love reading about their life and the hardships they overcame.

  7. It’s amazing how people are conditioned to accept failure as a bad thing. “Oh I don’t want to do that because I would be embarrassed if I failed”
    Failure is apart of success. I think you summed it up perfectly. Great post

  8. Failure is part of the “dignity of risk” … It’s OK to take risks even if it’s a belly flop 🙂 getting into the water.

  9. It is fitting that Spenser Tracy played Edison on screen because he also did an excellent Jeykle and Hyde. Edison was all that you say he was and he was also a viscous capitalist. He displayed all the traits that people (thinking people) dislike about unrestrained business. He didn’t just beat his competitors, he attempted to crush them. He set back the film industry by about two decades and he put Tesla out of business. He tried to stop the world from using AC current!
    Determined………. absolutely.
    Destructive…….. yes.
    An enigma, absolutely.
    Terry

    1. Great comment! Thank you for pointing out other of his traits. I decided to emphasize on the more positive ones, though.
      Take care.

  10. I believe what Edison also emulated is that not if but ‘when’ we fail, to always ‘fail-forward’. To use failures as a stepping stone as opposed to a stumbling block. This vantage point allows me to look at my failures as lessons for the future, to put in my toolbox–because chances are a similar situation will come again—and i certainly want to pass the test and move to the next level…

  11. Loved your post. Failure is a result to learn from. If you take some of the most successful people in the world and ask them how many times they have failed you would find it to be an astonishing amount of times. Take say a superstar athlete for instance, he/she has failed a whole lot more than they have succeeded. It is that failure that drives you to better yourself to become that superstar. We all have to learn from our mistakes and apply what we have learned to the next time.
    Take care and have a wonderful day!!!
    Peace!!!

  12. Great post :-). My favourite quote is: “Failure is something I sometimes do, not something I always am.” I look forward to reading more of your uplifting posts. D x

  13. Blessings,
    This is truly an amazing post. I find nothing but great encouragement through all things in our life. This makes great sense and I thank God for being lead here. Keep up the good work, hallelujah! Many blessings to you and yours.

  14. #5 is definitely my approach to things. Learning through failure is how we all beginning learning. Learning to walk, we fell, learning to ride a bike, again we fell…

    You are right on point with this one.

    1. Thank you for commenting and reblogging! I’m so happy you liked my blog. Your blog seems great too. I’ll be visiting you to check out your new posts.
      Peace.

  15. Great post I enjoyed it a lot. Edison was so phenomenal and his ability to persist astonishes me! Failure is very much part of the process its is a test of how bad do you really want it. You are so right if more people viewed it this way they would accomplish incredible feats. Here is a quote by Les Brown which applies to this so well.

    “The Chinese bamboo tree everyday has to be watered and fertilized. Its a very hard nut and it takes five years of watering and fertilization everyday before it breaks through the ground. At any time if the watering process and fertilization process is stopped it will die in the ground. Now once it breaks through in that fifth year then in six weeks it grows 90 feet tall! Now the question is does it grow 90 feet tall in five years or six weeks?”

    Even though you cant see anything above the surface does not mean that progress is not being made.

    1. Wonderful quote! You wrote it in the right place and time because I too sometimes lose hope and faith if I don’t see a change. It takes time and this is the hard part. Patience is required and without it we are lost. I try to do my best to stay on track and use people like Edison for role models.
      Thank you for the adequate comment.

      1. I am so glad that it reached you at the right time!! Another one I just thought of that might help you is

        “The elevator to success is broken, you have to take the stairs one step at a time”.

        Any who it was great finding your blog!
        You come across as extremely passionate person. Someone who is hungry to make a difference and who is going to make a difference. This is something I also strive for so it was reassuring to come across your blog. Keep up the great work!

        1. Thanks for the support! I see that you are a fan of motivational quotes, like me. From your blog I also found that you respect people like Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy. I read and watch their seminars whenever I need a little boost and motivation to either believe in myself more, or to take an action.

  16. Amazing and inspiring post. My father always says, “failure is an opportunity for hard work, followed by improvement, leading to future success.”
    love what you have said here.

  17. So True!! There are so many wonderful lessons to be had from failing. Failing is otherwise known as experience and that is how we learn. Applying this more in life helps us to move on from our past hurts and wrongs, reconcile them, make apologies in some cases and then fresh start it.

    Great post, Thanks so much for sharing!

  18. Love it! I’ll simply add by borrowing from Napoleon Hill…
    “In every adversity lies the seed of an equal and greater opportunity.”
    Imagine how much “fear” would be eliminated (and reciprocal success/happiness) if this concept, this philosophy was understood and lived out! Wonderful post Lidiya.

    1. Thank you for the comment. I see we have a lot in common.
      It’s such a nice coincidence that you quoted Napoleon Hill. “Think and Grow Rich” is one of my favorite books, it has such powerful principles and is written by a remarkable person. I read it again a few days ago and felt so inspired that I wrote my first ebook. It is free and I think you’ll enjoy it. It will be available in a few days on my blog.

      1. Ahh, congratulations! I will look for it!
        Yes, we both share a huge appetite for life and a fuller experience…. in the human experience, the intangibles as opposed to materialistic clutter.
        I do try to find the ‘deepest depths’ of experience — not just the “happy” — and some wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. But what is sometimes missed (or feared?) is how MUCH more you appreciate the depths of experience. 🙂

        1. In my case, even when I’m not trying to find these depths of experience, something just pushes me in that direction. And I end up having profound thoughts about the little, often unseen, things of life 🙂

  19. One of the most important things i learnt from reading your wonderful piece is that failure is a state of mind likewise success.thanks for sharing this with me and the rest of the word.

  20. Great article, write now I was doing something but I got mixed with other activity and.when I read about the concentrated mind, it came very appropriate. Shared this on twitter

  21. Very motivating. I feel like this should be an article every kid should read at one point in high school. Great job 🙂

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