Every Success Story is also a Story of Great Failures

Every Success Story is also a Story of Great Failures

Failure is the highway to success. Tom Watson Sr. said, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”

If you study history, you will find that all stories of success are also stories of great failures. But people don’t see the failures. They only see one side of the picture and they say that person got lucky: “He must have been at the right place at the right time.”

Let me share someone’s life history with you. This was a man who failed in business at the age of 21; was defeated in a legislative race at age 22; failed again in business at age 24; overcame the death of his sweetheart at age 26; had a nervous breakdown at age 27; lost a congressional race at age 34; lost a senatorial race at age 45; failed in an effort to become vice-president at age 47; lost a senatorial race at age 49; and was elected president of the United States at age 52.

This man was Abraham Lincoln.

Would you call him a failure? He could have quit. But to Lincoln, defeat was a detour and not a dead end.

In 1913, Lee De Forest, inventor of the triodes tube, was charged by the district attorney for using fraudulent means to mislead the public into buying stocks of his company by claiming that he could transmit the human voice across the Atlantic. He was publicly humiliated. Can you imagine where we would be without his invention?

A New York Times editorial on December 10, 1903, questioned the wisdom of the Wright Brothers who were trying to invent a machine, heavier than air that would fly. One week later, at Kitty Hawk, the right Brothers took their famous flight.

Colonel Sanders, at age 65, with a beat-up car and a $100 check from social Security, realized he had to do something. He remembered his mother's recipe and went out selling. How many doors did he have to knock on  before he got his first order? It is estimated that he had knocked on more than a thousand doors before he got his first order. How many of us quit after three tries, ten tries, a hundred tries, and then we say we tried as hard as we could?

As a young cartoonist, Walt Disney faced many rejections from newspaper editors, who said he had no talent. One day a minister at a church hired him to draw some cartoons. Disney was working out of a small mouse infested shed near the church. After seeing a small mouse, he was inspired. That was the start of Mickey Mouse.

Successful people don't do great things; they only do small things in a great way.

One day a partially deaf four year old kid came home with a note in his pocket from his teacher, "Your Tommy is too stupid to learn, get him out of the school." His mother read the note and answered, "My Tommy is not stupid to learn, I will teach him myself." And that Tommy grew up to be the great Thomas Edison. Thomas Edison had only three months of formal schooling and he was partially deaf.

Henry Ford forgot to put the reverse gear in the first car he made.

Do you consider these people failures? They succeeded in spite of problems, not in the absence of them. But to the outside world, it appears as though they just got lucky.

All success stories are stories of great failures. The only difference is that every time they failed, they bounced back. This is called failing forward, rather than backward. You learn and move forward. Learn from your failure and keep moving.

In 1914, Thomas Edison, at age 67, lost his factory, which was worth a few million dollars, to fire. It had very little insurance. No longer had a young man, Edison watched his lifetime effort go up in smoke and said, "There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burnt up. Thank God we can start anew." In spite of disaster, three weeks later, he invented the phonograph. What an attitude!

Below are more examples of the failures of successful people:
  1. Thomas Edison failed approximately 10,000 times while he was working on the light bulb.
  2. Henry Ford was broke at the age of 40.
  3. Lee Iacocca was fired by Henry Ford II at the age of 54.
  4. Young Beethoven was told that he had no talent for music, but he gave some of the best music to the world.
Setbacks are inevitable in life. A setback can act as a driving force and also teach us humility. In grief you will find courage and faith to overcome the setback. We need to learn to become victors, not victims. Fear and doubt short-circuit the mind.

Ask yourself after every setback: What did I learn from this experience? Only then will you be able to turn a stumbling block into a stepping stone.

The motivation to succeed comes from the burning desire to achieve a purpose. Napoleon Hill wrote, "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe the mind can achieve."

A young man asked Socrates the secret to success. Socrates told the young man to meet him near the river the next morning. They met. Socrates asked the young man to walk with him toward the river. When the water got up to their neck, Socrates took the young man by surprise and ducked him into the water. The boy struggled to get out but Socrates was strong and kept him there until the English Class X Free distribution by A.P. Government 1717 boy started turning blue. Socrates pulled his head out of the water and the first thing the young man did was to gasp and take a deep breath of air. Socrates asked, 'What did you want the most when you were there?" The boy replied, "Air." Socrates said, "That is the secret to success. When you want success as badly as you wanted the air, then you will get it." There is no other secret.

A burning desire is the starting point of all  accomplishment. Just like a small fire cannot give much heat, a weak desire cannot produce great results.


If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don't!
If you like to win, but think you can't,
It's almost a cinch you won't.
You think you'll lose, you're lost;
For out in the world we find
Success begins with a fellow's will;
It's all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You've got to think high to rise,
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger and faster man,
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.

By Shiv Khera

About the author
Shiv Khera is an Indian author of self-help books and activist. While working in the United States, he was inspired by a lecture delivered by Norman Vincent Peale and followed his motivational teachings. Khera has written several books including You Can Win. His mission is "to ensure freedom through education and justice." Shiv Khera was born in a business family who used to have coal mines Kendua in Dhanbad, India. Soon after the nationalisation of coal mines by the Indian government, he had to search for his own living. In his early years he worked as a car washer, a life insurance agent, and a franchise operator before he became a motivational speaker.
For more information of the author CLICK HERE


overcome(v)                      : to defeat or succeed in controlling or dealing with something
detour(n)                            : a road or route that is used when the usual one is closed
Triodes tube (n)               : A triode is an electronic amplification tube having three active electrodes. Invented in 1906, the triode vacuum tube was the first electronic amplification device.  This invention founded the electronic age, making possibleamplified radio technology and long-distance telephony.
Lee de Forest                    : an American inventor with over 180 patents to his credit. He invented the Auden, a vacuum tube that takes relatively weak electrical signals and amplifies them. He is one of the fathers of the "electronic age," as the Audion helped to usher in the widespread use of electronics. He is also credited with one of the  principal inventions that brought sound to motion pictures.
fraudulent (adj)                : intended to cheat someone, usually in order to make money illegally
Colonel Sanders               : Colonel Harland David Sanders was an American businessman and restaurateur who founded the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) chain restaurants
beat-up (adj)                     : old and damaged
Walt Disney                        : an American animator, film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon and philanthropist, well known for his influence in the field of entertainment during the 20th century. He created some of the world's most well-known fictional characters including Mickey Mouse.
infest(v)                               : to exist in large numbers in a particular place, often causing damage or disease (especially of insects or animals such as rats)
Henry Ford                         : an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor company, and sponsor of the  development of the assembly line technique of mass production. He did not invent the automobile but he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford to buy.
Lee Iacocca                         : an American Business man known for engineering the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto cars. He was the former chairman of the Chrysler Corporation. He was one of the most famous business people in the world. He is the author (or co-author) of several books, including Iacocca.
Ludwig van Beethoven : a German composer and pianist. He was a crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music. He remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 concertos, 2 piano sonatas and 16string quartets. He also composed other chamber music, choral works (including the celebrated Missa Solemnis and songs).
Nepoleon Hill                     : an American author in the area of the new thought movement who was one of the earliest producers of the modern genre of personal-success literature. He is widely  considered to be one of the great writers on success.
conceive(n)                        : to form an idea, a plan, etc. in your mind; to imagine something
Socratese (469 BC - 399 BC)         : a classical Greek Athenian philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western Philosophy. He is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon and the plays of his contemporary Aristopanes. Many would claim that Plato's dialogues are the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity. Socrates  has become renowned for his contribution to the field of ethics.
ducked(v)                           : to push somebody under water and hold them there for a short time
cinch(n)                                : a thing that is certain to happen
outclassed(v)                     : to be much better than someone you are competing against

I. Answer the following questions.
1. 'To Lincoln, defeat was a detour and not a dead end.' Justify this statement from the life of Lincoln.
2. What did Socrates suggest as the secret to success? Do you agree or disagree with it?
     Give reasons for your answer.
3. Complete the following table about the failures and successes of the great personalities mentioned
     in  the lesson you have just read. The first one is done for you.

Failures/rejections he faced
Final success
Failed in business, defeated in legislative elections, had nervous breakdown, lost congressional race and senatorial race
Elected president of United States of America
Charged by the district attorney with using fraudulent means to misled public. He was publicly humiliated.
Invented the triodes tubes
A New York Times editorial questioned the wisdom of Wright Brothers as they tried to invent aeroplanes
Wright Brothers successfully took their famous flight.
Knocked many doors before he got the first order
Succeeded as a businessman and has a chain of restaurants all over the world (KFC – Kentucky Fried Chicken)
Many newspaper editors said Walt Disney had no talent.
Created world famous cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse; He became a film producer, director, voice actor; international icon and philanthropist.
Failed 10,000 times while working on light bulb. At the age of 67, he lost his factory to fire in 1914.
Grew up to be a great scientist
He forgot to put the reverse gear in the first car he made.
Established cars company
Fired by Henry Ford II
One of the most famous business people in the world. Author of several books.
He was told that he had no talent for music.
Gave some of the best music to the world.
Study skills
Read the following story.

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business to live a more leisurely life with his wife and enjoy his extended family. He would miss the paycheck each week, but he wanted to retire. They could get by.

The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favour. The carpenter agreed. But over time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished his work, his employer came to inspect the house. Then he handed the front-door key to the carpenter and said, “This is your house… my gift to you.”

The carpenter was shocked!

What a shame! If he had only known that he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.

So it is with us. We build our lives, a day at a time, often putting less than our best into the building. Then, with a shock, we realize we have to live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we would do it much differently.

But, you cannot go back. You are the carpenter, and every day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Someone once said, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” Your attitude, and the choices you make today, helps build the “house” you will live in tomorrow. Therefore, Build wisely!

I. Complete the table given below.
Point to be observed
Observation / Point of View
The setting /location in which the story took place
The contractor – employer’s work place and the newly constructed house.
The main characters
The carpenter
The contractor-employer
The main events
a.       The carpenter wants to retire.
b.      The employer requests to build one more house.
c.       The carpenter builds it but with no interest and with bad workmanship.
d.      The contractor hands over the key of the finished house to the carpenter and says it is his gift to the carpenter.
e.      The contractor feels sad and laments how he has ‘built his own house.’
The turning point in the story
The contractor gifting the house to the carpenter.
The irony in the story
The carpenter built the last house with bad taste but the contractor gifted that house to the carpenter himself.
The message in the story
“Work for others as you work for yourselves,”
“We reap what we sow,”
Possible title
“We Design our Destiny:,
“Build your Life”

II. Extended Writing
Rewrite the above story by giving another ending.
Click Here for Answer


Listen the Story
I. Just now you have listened to a story about a farmer.

Here are some sentences that describe the events in the story. However, they are not in the order in which they occur in the story. Listen to the story and arrange them in the order in which they occur. Put 1 after the event that occurs first, 2 against the next and so on.

He threw himself into the Barcelona River and committed suicide.
The wise man said, “Because that is a diamond.”
He picked up the stone and put it in the living room.
He looked all through Europe and couldn’t find any.
They found that the farm was indeed covered with acres and acres of diamonds.
That night the farmer couldn’t sleep.
The person who had bought his farm was watering the camels at a stream.
He made arrangements to sell off his farm and went in search of diamonds.
He was unhappy and he was discontent.
A wise man told him about the glory of diamonds.

Oral Activity
After listening to the story, work in pairs and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of travelling abroad. You may use the hints given in the box for your understanding.

• Earn more money
• Cut off from your roots
• Social Status
• Living away from parents
• More opportunities
• Brain drain / Intellectual loss

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