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You have the Hardware and the Software but is your WETWARE ready?

Hero Failures
"If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate." Thomas Watson, Sr., founder of IBM

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
Thomas Edison, prolific American inventor, scientist and businessman (response to the suggestion that he failed 10,000 times to develop a storage battery)

Failure is an integral part of success, no matter who you are. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he lacked imagination and had no original ideas. Michelangelo failed more than 200 times trying to produce the perfect sketch for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Elvis Presley got a C in his high school music class. And in its first year, The Coca-Cola Company managed to sell only 400 bottles of Coke. If you've never failed, you've never lived. Life equals risk.

Amazingly, the more times we fail, the higher probability of success we have in the future, provided we persist. Each "failure" allows us to gain new insight and new experiences. Sometimes failures can even yield tangible results - like penicillin, cubic zirconium (synthetic diamonds) and the microwave, all accidental creations resulting from "failed" experiments.

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all -- in which case, you fail by default."
JK Rowling, Author and Billionaire

In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell explains that most success stories, from the Beetles to Bill Gates, invested more than 10,000 hours in their trade before they mastered those skills, and that their many hardships, setbacks and challenges gave them an edge: unparalleled experiences and practice of which the rest of the population can't boast. Their mistakes and continued practice made them great.

You are sure to recognize many individuals in the minuscule sampling of names below. They are heroes in their own right, who came from humble beginnings but found the "silver lining" advantages in their circumstances.

Some went to college, some dropped out and others never even completed early scholastic education. However, all of them were (or are) highly learned individuals who eagerly pursued life's experiences and teachings. In time, they drew on their creativity, energy, determination and persistence to build something grander, reaching extraordinary pinnacles of success and benefiting many. Read extended versions of these famous failure bios, and many more, in Wisher, Washer, Wishy-Washy.


He was a farm boy and a high school dropout who taught the world to dream.

When he was 18 years old, Disney pursued a career drawing political caricatures or comic strips for newspapers, but no one would hire this eager artist. His brother arranged for him to have a short-lived job creating ads for newspapers, magazines and movie theaters. Here, he met his first business partner, Ub Iwerks, with whom he formed Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists in 1920. The company had problems making ends meet, and by the end of 1922, Disney was living in the office and taking baths once a week at Union Station. In1923, at age 21, he filed for bankruptcy.

Next, he moved to Los Angeles and paired up with his brother to form what would eventually become the Walt Disney Company. Politics, betrayal and more losses mounted. At 31 years old, he had a nervous breakdown – but dusted himself off and pressed on. Pinocchio, Bambi and Fantasia were all considered flops, leaving Disney owing the banks $5 million in 1939.

Despite his partner's insistence that it would be a flop, Disney embarked on the creation of Disneyland, cashing in all of his assets, including his life insurance, to fund it. The board and banks all turned Disney down multiple times. But in 1954, in his middle age, he finally got the money he needed to begin construction of Disneyland.

And his tenacity and perseverance eventually started paying off in the film business as well. The movie Mary Poppins, for example, was borne from a script authored by Pamela Lyndon Travers in 1934. It took Walt Disney 20 years to convince the strong-willed, proprietary and altogether perfectionist Travers to put her signature on the dotted line. Adjusted for inflation, it ranks as No. 23 on the list of all-time box-office earners.

The human spirit knows no bounds.

"All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me ... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."
Walt Disney


He was a runaway who didn't succeed until his "retirement."

During his early years, Sanders worked many jobs, including steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, railroad fireman and farmer. He enlisted in the Army as a private when he was only 16 years old (by lying about his age) and spent his entire service commitment in Cuba. But he didn't find his true calling until many failures - and many years - later.

At age 40, Sanders began cooking chicken dishes and other meals for people who stopped at his service station in Corbin, Kentucky. His local popularity grew, and Sanders became a chef at a local motel with a restaurant that seated 142 people. Over the next nine years, he developed his secret chicken recipe and methods.

At age 65, Sanders used $105 from his first Social Security check to begin franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants. He kissed his wife good-bye, loaded up his battered old car with his pressure cooker and left his home to visit potential franchisees across the country. He offered his secret chicken recipe to many restaurants for free, asking for only a small percentage of the sales. More than 1,000 restaurant owners rejected his offer. On his 1,009th sales visit, one owner finally accepted.

Less than 10 years later, Sanders had more than 600 KFC franchises across the U.S. and Canada. Until he was fatally stricken with leukemia in 1980 at the age of 90, the Colonel traveled 250,000 miles each year to visit KFC restaurants around the world. Kentucky Fried Chicken has grown to become one of the largest quick-food service systems in the world, with more than a billion "finger lickin' good" KFC dinners served annually in more than 80 countries and territories.

The human spirit knows no bounds.

"I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know."
Colonel Sanders


She created a magical world (and a billion-dollar enterprise) while living in squalor.

Rowling worked as a researcher at Amnesty International and later as a secretary for several companies. But she was never happy in these roles, and her habit of devising fantasy stories when she should have been working got her fired more than once. "I was never paying much attention in meetings because I was usually scribbling bits of my latest stories in the margins of the pad or thinking up names for my characters," she told BBC News.

When her mother, age 45, died on New Year's Eve in 1990 after a 10-year battle with multiple sclerosis, Rowling's world was rocked. She left the U.K. to teach English in Portugal - where she met her first husband, Portuguese journalist Jorges Arantes - but she continued to write. Rowling gave birth to their daughter, Jessica, in 1993, got divorced soon afterward and moved to Edinburgh to be near her sister.

Living off welfare payments in "grotty and depressing" government housing, Rowling developed Harry Potter's world as a means of escape.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the American release) hit shelves in the U.K. in 1997 after being rejected by eight publishers. Since then, the Harry Potter series has sold more than 400 million books in 65 languages worldwide and spawned a series of hit films starring Daniel Radcliffe as the boy wizard. In March 2010, when Forbes published its latest list of billionaires worldwide, it estimated Rowling's net worth to be $1 billion. She has become a notable philanthropist, supporting such charities as Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and the Children's High Level Group.

The human spirit knows no bounds.

"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."
J.K. Rowling


He became a successful cartoonist because he failed at being an executive.

Born in Windham, New York, in 1957, Adams graduated valedictorian in a class of 39 people. He remained in the area for college, receiving a bachelor's degree in Economics from Hartwick College in 1979. Then he studied economics and management at the University of California, Berkeley, and received an MBA in 1986.

After working 17 years in an unrewarding job, he successfully made the move to cartooning. The transition was not easy, though. To keep his resolution strong and his spirit positive in the face of a multitude of rejections, he wrote, "I will become a syndicated cartoonist" at least 15 times each day. And he kept on sending sample cartoons to syndication services.

Eventually, he did get a syndication contract, but the sales weren't what he'd hoped for. So he talked to his customers, who told him that business humor was the next big thing in comics, and re-focused his work to create a best-seller in Dilbert. Since late 2004, his health has created obstacles for his work, but ever perseverant in the face of challenges, he has found creative ways to keep drawing.

In 2004 he suffered from a reemergence of focal dystonia, a condition discovered in his youth. Though it has affected his drawing, he works around the problem by drawing using a graphics tablet. He also suffers from spasmodic dysphonia, a condition that causes the vocal cords to behave in an abnormal manner. He recovered from this condition temporarily but, in July 2008, underwent surgery to rewire the nerve connections to his vocal cord. Still, Dilbert continues to humor us all!

The human spirit knows no bounds.

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistake. Art is knowing which ones to keep."
Scott Adams

Don't be afraid to fail...
Be afraid NOT to try!


Are we born into fame or do we make our fame? From humble beginnings to stardom here are some famous celebrities who had humbling times.

11 Ex-Criminals Who Completely Turned Their Life Around.


[He] Failed Over and Over again in his life and that is why [he] succeeds!


"If you risk nothing, then you risk everything."
Geena Davis: Actress, Film Producer, Writer, Model, Olympic Archery team

"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again more intelligently."
Henry Ford: Industrialist with 161 patents

"My hope still is to leave this world a bit better than when I got here"
Jim Henson: Muppet Show and Sesame Street Creator. Film Director and TV Producer

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."
Albert Einstein:
Physicist and Pacifist

"Men are born to succeed, not to fail."
Henry David Thoreau

"Success is moving from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm!"
Winston Churchill

"Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently."
Henry Ford

"My interest in science was always essentially limited to the study of principles... That I have published so little is due to this same circumstance, as the great need to grasp principles has caused me to spend most of my time on fruitless pursuits."
Albert Einstein:
Physicist and Pacifist

"Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses."
George Washington Carver

"The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try. I would never promote into a top level job a man who was not making mistakes... otherwise he is sure to be mediocre."
Peter Drucker

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone."
Bill Cosby

"I have now been promoted to being an evil monster in Germany, and all of my money has been taken away. But I console myself with the thought that it would have soon been spent, anyway."
Albert Einstein:
Physicist and Pacifist

"A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him."
David Brinkley

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work."
Thomas Alva Edison

I know fear is an obstacle for some people, but it is an illusion to me. . .Failure always made me try harder next time.
Michael Jordan

"One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one's greatest efforts."
Albert Einstein:
Physicist and Pacifist

"The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."
Vince Lombardi

"Before success comes in any man's life, he is sure to meet with much temporary defeat, and, perhaps, some failure. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and most logical thing to do is quit. That is exactly what the majority of men do."
Napoleon Hill

"The success of most things depends upon knowing how long it will take to succeed."
Baron de Montesquieu

"Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics; I can assure you that mine are still greater."
Albert Einstein:
Physicist and Pacifist

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."
Colin Powell

"To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first."
William Shakespeare

"It doesn't matter if you try and try and try again, then fail. It does matter if you try and fail, and fail to try again."
Charles F. Kettering

"What depresses me most is the misfortune of my parents who have not had a happy moment for so many years. What further hurts me deeply is that as an adult man, I have to look on without being able to do anything. I am nothing but a burden on my family... It would be better off if I were not alive at all. Only the thought that I have always done what lay in my modest powers, and that I do not permit myself a single pleasure or distraction save for what my studies offer me, sustains me and sometimes protects me from despair."
Albert Einstein:
Physicist and Pacifist
Quoted in Einstein, His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

Einstein found it very difficult to obtain any job as an adult. No university would hire him. "I leave no stone unturned and do not give up my sense of humor. God created the donkey and gave him, a thick skin." In 1905 he has a miraculous year publishing several papers while finally working as a patent clerk. Only a few seemed to care. Because his theories were so radical it took 17 years before he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Einstein published more than 300 scientific works and more than 150 non-scientific works. He is often regarded as the father of Modern Physics.

Failure Articles

  • How Failure Breeds Success. Everyone fears failure. But breakthroughs depend on it. The best companies embrace their mistakes and learn from them. BusinessWeek, July 10, 2006
  • The success of failure. Pulitzer-winning author Jennifer Egan and others have learned that failure is a great opportunity for creative growth.

Wishy Washy

Romnesia (noun) : the tendency to forget having expressed an opinion about something in the past that is the opposite of one's current position on the same issue.

"All mankind is divided into three classes:
those that are immovable,
those that are movable,
and those that move"
Ben Franklin

Get your copy of my latest book
Move: How To Move Mountains When You Think You Can't

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