Thursday's Thoughts on Leadership: Leaders Understand - Failure is a Part of Success

Most of us have heard the story of Thomas Edison failing his way to success in the invention of the light bulb. He literally failed 10,000 times before getting it right.

If Edison had said, “I am a failure. My idea is bad, my work is misguided, my mission is lost,” the world would be a much darker place. Of course, what he did do was learn from the failures, made changes, and tried again.


Early in my real estate career I seriously was considering quitting the business. I struggled greatly for my first deal. Then out of the blue a friend called and said he wanted to move. I said to myself, “OK, I will get out of the real estate business after I close this one deal.” That deal led to another and another and pretty soon there was no looking back.

One year later I had closed 52 deals!

Here is what I have learned: when you have a setback - losing a big sale, being passed over for a career-making promotion, even getting fired - allow yourself a short time to grieve, then get right back up on your horse and plan your next move.

The great coach Bill Walsh, in his book “The Score Takes Care of Itself,” recounts how close he came to quitting in the second season as 49er head coach, hitting rock bottom after a crushing loss to the Miami Dolphins. He spent part of a transcontinental flight experiencing an emotional meltdown.

Sixteen months later, the San Francisco 49ers became world champions, defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 in Super Bowl XVI at the Silver Dome in Pontiac, Michigan.

A football dynasty was in the works. The 49ers won five Super Bowls over fourteen years.

Thomas Edison and Bill Walsh both understood that failure is an integral part of success. We would do well to follow their lead.