9 – 10,000 Failures Equals Success

Thomas Edison had made his fortune. He already had harnessed electricity. He alone was responsible for bringing electricity to much of the beginning stages of New York, certainly the lower parts of New York, and he had formed the Thomas Edison Energy company. And he was already a wealthy individual.

In his lab one day he decided that he wanted to create an electric light bulb. In those days you lit the room at night with a kerosene lamp. Kerosene burnt pretty inconsistently and it smelled. It was expensive; it was cumbersome. He decided that if we could somehow create some sort of filament and let the electricity go through it it would provide light and we could change the world.

But here was the problem. Every different type of element that he tried would either burn very brightly, quickly and burn out, or would not burn causing enough light. He tried cottons, he tried hemp, he tried different metals. He tried material after material after material. Every single one either burnt out quickly or just wouldn’t provide enough light. Eventually he tried to vacuum, pull out the air, maybe have it that way. But again it failed. But you see, every element that he tried he had to put between these two metal probes, put it between there and then wait to see what would happen. Many a night he slept under his desk waiting for the results. And he tried and he tried and he tried, and he couldn’t find a successful product. Until eventually he discovered tungsten, invented the effective electric light bulb, and he changed humanity’s existence.

Thomas Edison’s biographer explains something very, very telling. He didn’t fail once or twice. He didn’t fail a dozen times. He tried every known material, one after another after another. Not a single one worked. But until he discovered tungsten he had gone through approximately 10,000 different experiments, 10,000 different attempts, each one failing. And that ability to fail time after time after time and to say to myself I’m one step closer to success and not to lose faith and not to lose inspiration, but to keep on going, is one of the keys to success in life in any endeavor. Certainly in terms of personal growth; certainly in becoming that which we were put on the planet to become.