Failure Is Key To Success in Life

Winston Churchill said: “Success is never final, failure is never fatal; courage is what counts.”

How do people succeed in life? What makes one person fail while another succeeds?

Thomas Watson, CEO of IBM and one of the richest men of his time, once said that the formula for success was:  “quite simple, really.  Double your rate of failure.”


Watson went on:  “You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success.  But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it,  So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you  will find success.”

Watso, who developed IBM’s distinctive management style and turned the company into an effective selling organization,  was called the world’s greatest salesman when he died in 1956.

He knew a little bit about failure.  He had quit his first job as a teacher, one day after he started it.  He peddled pianos for $10 per week.  Hethen took a job selling shares of the Buffalo Building and Loan Company, but a huckster named C.B. Barron absconded with all of his commissions and the loan funds.

Next, Watson opened a butcher shop, and it failed.

With no money, no investment, and no job, he begged a cash register company, NRC, to hire him, which they eventually did, and here he eventually worked his way up to starring at the company’s head office.   Not long after, he joined the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, renamed it International Business Machines (IBM) and built it into a company so powerful and dominant that the federal government filed a civil antitrust suit against them in 1952.

When Thomas J. Watson, then known as “the world’s greatest salesman” died in 1956, IBM’s revenues were $897 million, and the company had 72,500 employees.

Success didn’t come to Watson; he went to success.  He chased it.  He learned from his failures.  He did not let any failure define him; he used each failure to grow more successful in new ways.  He didn’t become successful by having a new talent or a new opportunity presented to him.   He developed the opportunities that were at hand, and quickly disregarded the flops.

We can learn from Thomas J. Watson.  Rather than mope over the unfinished, the unachieved and the unrealistic goals we’ve made for ourselves, we can walk away from the bad matches, the bad examples, and the miserable experiences of our lives, unscathed.  We can chase after new opportunities and if they elude us, chase after others.   While one person’s failure could be the end of the road for him, another’s failure could be the leaping off point to success.  The real test is between what you’ve already done and what you’re actually capable of doing. We measure ourselves against ourselves.  And we don’t have to fear failure; it really is a stepping stone to success.


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