How Your Failures Can Help You Succeed Failure is inevitable, but is there a right way to go wrong? An open mindset and a willingness to learn from mistakes can be all that stand between glorious comeback and utter collapse.
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On Oct. 11, 1868, a young and ambitious telegrapher from northern Ohio applied for a patent for an invention, a gadget he called an electrographic vote-recorder, which he hoped would be used to tally votes cast by members of the House of Representatives. Regrettably, the House declined to buy the recorder. But 21-year-old Thomas Alva Edison was unbowed by this failed business venture, and three months later he sold the rights to his next invention, a form of stock ticker known as a printing telegraph.
Edison was the quintessential American entrepreneur, committed not only to advancing technology -- even inventing new industries -- but also to securing ample profit for his labors. Yet for all his success, Edison embraced his role as a champion of failure. For the man who held 1,093 patents--who changed the way Americans lived every bit as much as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs would a century later--failure was elemental to the process of innovation. "Results!" Edison once exclaimed, as recounted in Edison, His Life and Inventions by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin. "Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won't work."
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