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Editorial: Oh, the ways you’ll fail

Pretty clichéd advice, to be sure, maybe even worthy of an eye roll from our younger readers. But consider how much failure many of the greatest successes had to wade through.

Thomas Edison is quoted as saying, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” And he lived that principle, basing his search for a better light bulb on a trial and error process that was undeniably inefficient and ham-fisted — but it worked.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the unimaginably successful Harry Potter series (and who is probably more well known than Edison as this point), was destitute when she sold her first Potter manuscript — after having it turned down 12 times. A few years later and she’s worth something like $1 billion. It’s fair to say the world would be a different place if Rowling had hung it up after a dozen rejections.

The list rolls on and on: Henry Ford (who was looked at as an abject failure at 40, before he invented the Model T), Babe Ruth (who was better known for striking out before he broke the home run record), Dr. Seuss (whose first book was rejected 27 times) and leaders the like of Dick Cheney, Winston Churchill and Harry Truman (all of whom either flunked out or dropped out of school at some point).

The point to all this is to illustrate the importance of continued growth along with the relative unimportance of figuring it all out right away. Take the time to try new things and find out your place in the world and remember: failure is more than an option. It’s a requirement.

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