Failure Stories That Point To Incredible Success

"Failures are pivotal moments that force you to take a different path-a path to a better place."   Thomas Edison

Sometimes stories are our best teachers.  That would hold true for failure stories as well.  While we can find inspiration in the successes of others, we can also learn as much or more by studying the setbacks that are part of nearly every eventual victory.

In this page I'll present some failure stories about people who went on to do great things.  I'll also show you some incredible inventions that only came about after something went wrong. 

It is our nature to look down on ineffective efforts.  Too often our pass/fail mentality closes our eyes to any possible gain from failure stories.  In our page centered around our prevalent failure definition, I wrote that we needed to take a better look at how we view the results of actions and how they guide our future direction.

Hopefully these accounts will inspire you to look past temporary setbacks and move forward with confidence.

Failure Stories That Will Inspire New Achievement

Here at, we've featured some excellent books by incredible authors.  But even the very best have had to pass through times of challenge.

Dr. Seuss is a world-famous author.  His books are read around the world.  We've used some of his great quotes in our "Thought for the Day" section of the home page several times.  His books have sold over 600 million copies.  But his first book was rejected by 27 publishers.  I wonder what they would think now?

Can you imagine a world without "Green Eggs And Ham?"  

I pose this question to both sir and mam.

What a dreary world had Dr. Seuss quit.

I wouldn't have liked it.  Not even a bit.

When Failure Is Just A Guidepost

Stephen King's books have sold over 350 million copies.  His novel titled "Carrie" was the book that set his career in motion.  But it almost never got off the launching pad. 

His frustration level during the process of writing "Carrie" reached a point where he threw the unfinished book into the trash.  His wife, Tabitha pulled it out of the garbage and convinced him to not let this failure story be his final legacy.

J.K. Rowling has had amazing success with her "Harry Potter" series of books.   But her life has seen a fair share of failure stories.

She states, "I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew."  She hung in there however and it's worked out pretty well for her.

Our world has been the beneficiary of the wisdom, guidance and imagination of noteworthy leaders, inventors and creators.  There are failure stories among this group as well.

Can you imagine how you'd feel after failing in business, suffering a nervous breakdown, and losing several elections including a run for the White House?  Such a history of failure stories would affect even someone possessing the strongest of will.

"My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure."   Abraham Lincoln

But Abraham Lincoln shook off those past disappointments and became one of the great American leaders. 

I find uplifting quotes to be very valuable.  If you'd like to read some more wisdom about overcoming failure, please go to our page loaded with such quotes.

Walt Disney is a legendary example of a self-made success.  His movies, theme parks and imagination have created joy for millions of people around the world.

He also has a history of failure stories on his resume.  He was fired from a newspaper in Missouri for "not being creative enough."  Were they kidding?  Or maybe Mr. Disney just hadn't traveled the necessary miles in the growth process yet.  He had an early business go bankrupt because he couldn't manage it well enough.

"We don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious.... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."   Walt Disney

But his time came.  And when it did, he took those lessons from the past, added in some relentless determination and created a legacy that will stand for generations.

Albert Einstein didn't even speak for the first three years of his life.  In elementary school, his teachers considered him to be lazy and assumed he would probably not make much of himself.  He was expelled from school.  Now his last name is synonymous with being called a genius.  From a rough start he went on become a Nobel Prize winner for physics.

Thomas Edison is famous for many inventions.  The electric light bulb is one of his most important.  But not everything worked out quite as well for him.  We've all heard his quote, "I have not failed 10,000 times,....I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work." 

He was fascinated with the concept of "talking pictures."  He came up with a product that had a viewer coupled with a phonograph.  The idea never panned out and Edison finally abandoned the idea.  He did however invent the motion picture camera.

Many years before the wave of talking dolls hit the market, Edison placed tiny phonographs inside dolls.  Consumers complained that the sound quality wasn't good enough and the dolls broke far too easily.

At the end of his career, Thomas Edison held over 1000 patents.  His inventive genius still has a positive impact on our lives.  The same could be said for his ability to see past setbacks.

Mistakes That Became Important Discoveries

James Dyson's contribution to our list of failure stories has 5126 entries.  That's how many failed attempts he had before finally inventing his bag-less vacuum cleaner.  What if he never made it to number 5127?

Penicillin has been around for years and has been effective as a killer of dangerous bacteria.  In the field of antibiotics, penicillin is one of the foundations.  But if the person who discovered it's existence hadn't left a pile of used petri dishes on a table as he left for a vacation, the discovery of this bacteria fighter could have been missed.

Alexander Fleming wanted to get out of town for awhile and just left his work sitting on a table.  When he returned, the mess was still there so he began to clean out the dishes.  It was then that he saw one petri dish that seemed to have formed a blockade where a type of mold had grown.  Penicillin was discovered.

In 1943, Richard James was working as an engineer in the Navy.  He was tasked with developing sensitive springs that would hold fragile cargo in place aboard ships as sea.  His prototype was 80 feet of wire compressed into a two inch high coil.  He accidentally knocked the wire off a shelf.

The spring didn't land and stop.  Instead it sort of walked away.  He showed it to his wife who saw a possibility.  She consulted a dictionary and found a Swedish term that meant "sleek and sinuous."  And the Slinky was born.

Perhaps the most famous of the failure stories that became an incredible success came about when the 3M company was seeking a super adhesive.  Spencer Silver was in charge of this project.  However the adhesive he came up with proved to be less than super.  The glue stuck, but the paper on which it was glued could be easily removed. 

Mr Spencer suggested there may be uses for this "weak glue", but the higher-ups at 3M didn't have the same vision of this failed effort.  However Art Fry discovered a unique use for this product.  He used the paper backed with mild glue to mark the pages of his hymnal.  Finally 3M released what became known as "Post-It Notes", a full decade after this most iconic of failure stories came about.

Our society sees failure as a stopping point.  Great innovators see the same thing as a progress gauge.  A lesson we could all follow.

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Just below is a quote from "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff" by Richard Carlson.  The chapter title is "Open Your Heart To Compassion." 

"Every day we are given hundreds of opportunities to practice compassion in action.  We can learn to be less reactive and live with more patience.

We can smile when others are serious.  We can drive our cars more carefully, pick up litter on the streets, recycle, and reduce our consumption.

We can resolve conflicts rather than create them, and we can become less judgemental and more inclusive.  When someone is aggressive, we can teach them to be more peaceful.  Instead of waiting for an example, we can be the example.

The more compassion that enters your heart, the happier and more peaceful you will become.  By knowing that you are doing your part to create a better world-whatever form that takes-you will fill any void that exists in your life, and you will begin to find the peace you are looking for."

What's New?

Just below is an article from Peter Schiff about passing the buck from one administration to the next.

Owning The Bubble

Just below is a link to look up your congressional representatives.   Let them know you expect accountability.

Congressional Representative Look Up