Failure is a Fresh Start – a Lesson from Thomas Edison

thomas edison principles about failure
Thomas Edison on failures
As I was talking to someone today who kept highlighting how they had failed at something they’d put so much hard work in to, I thought my next post should be about giving people a fresh perspective on failure.

All of us encounter failure at some point of time or the other, at times we feel defeated at other times we move on without looking back. As an entrepreneur one is bound to have many instances of failure and while most times one finds a way around it, at other times one feels like giving up.

No, I am not going to tell you anything more about failure and how to deal with it. I’ll let this story do the talking…

It was a cold December night in West Orange, New Jersey. Thomas Edison’s factory was buzzing with activity. Work was proceeding on a number of fronts as the great inventor was trying to turn more of his dreams in to practical realities. Edison’s plant made of concrete and steel was deemed “fireproof”.

As you may have already guessed, it wasn’t!

On that frigid night in 1914, the sky was lit up by a sensational blaze that had burst through the roof of the plant. Edison’s 24 year old son, Charles, made a frenzied search for his famous inventor-father.

When he finally found him, he was watching the fire. His white hair was blowing in the wind. His face was illuminated by the leaping flames. “My heart ached for him”, said Charles. “Here he was 67 years old, and everything he had worked for was going up in flames.

When he saw me he shouted, “Charles where is your mother?” When I told him I didn’t know, he said, “Find her, bring her, she’ll never get to see something like this as long as she lives.”

Next morning, Mr. Edison looked at the ruins of his factory and said of his loss. “There’s value in disaster. All our mistakes burned up. Thank God, we can start anew.”

What a wonderful perspective at things that seem at first to be so disastrous. A business failure, a divorce, a personal dream unrealised… whether these things destroy an individual depends largely on the attitude he or she takes toward them.

Sort out why it happened, and learn something from the blunders. Think of different approaches that can be taken. Start over.

By sharing this story that I read somewhere and which I often share with my students I hope you too will treat failure as an opportunity for a fresh start!