Thomas Edison was a real quote machine in his time. Among his more memorable quotes are:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
“Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
Edison’s thinking process, as reflected in these quotes, undoubtedly contributed to his success – because he was willing to fail over and over on the way to being successful.
Many of us need to rethink the concept of failure. It does not have to be a conclusion to an endeavor that we’ve begun. It can rather be thought of as being part of a process. And it doesn’t even have to be thought of as failure. Rather it can be a part of a learning process that we can build upon.
Getting an A in a high school science class doesn’t make a person a scientist. It does, however, enable the A student to evaluate himself or herself differently than the student who got a C or the student who got a Fail. If any of them has a goal of a career in science, s/he will have to use the grade as feedback to determine what adjustments have to be made to effectively move forward toward that career. We can be pretty certain that we won’t be reading about great scientific accomplishments from a student whose A in high point of the career.
The same thing applies to the student who “earns” a failing grade. There are lots of reasons why students fail, and lack of ability is only one of them. Many students can overcome early failures by getting remedial help in the subject or by admitting that their motivation can be improved or by developing better study habits. Or they may conclude that they don’t like the subject enough to change their approach to it.
The critical issue for both the A and Fail student is to recognize that the grade is not a destination but rather a means of triggering the thinking process to help determine the next step.
The same holds true for all of us. Being human means that we inevitably experience some non-successes. The areas of non-success may be different for each of us and could affect our relationships, careers, finances, and other aspects of our lives. But non-success does not have to mean failure.
Take a lesson from Thomas Edison. Treat non-successes as opportunities to learn what doesn’t work and what you can do differently so as to not repeat the same non-success.
the appropriate mindset for dealing with failure is to see it as existing on a continuum – with success at the other end. Use your failures to make adjustments to move yourself further along the continuum in the direction of success.
Think of failure as non-success. And think of non-success as being part of a process rather than a permanent state of affairs.