Watching golf this afternoon helped me form today’s post. Golf is a hard game. Professional (and recreational) golf involves a lot more failure (for most golfers) than success. That means when the pros finally do win, or an amateur achieves a personal goal, its all the more sweeter because they worked so hard and persevered. Golf reminded of how close failure, rejection and success are related. To illustrate this point let me list some famous examples of how ideas or products were rejected and later became a success.
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” — Western Union internal memo, 1876.
“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” — David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” — A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” — H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927
“I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.” — Gary Cooper, on his decision to not take the leading role in “Gone With The Wind.”
“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” — Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.
“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” — Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.
“If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.” — Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads.
“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.'” — Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer.
“Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” — 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work.
“You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can’t be done. It’s just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training.” — Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the “unsolvable” problem by inventing Nautilus.
“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.” — Drillers whom Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859.
“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” — Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.
“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” — Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, French Military Generals Academy.
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” — Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.
“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction”. — Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872
“The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon”. — Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.
“No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris.” — Orville Wright
There are many more examples out there. Another famous failure turned success was JK Rowling’s attempts to get published. She was turned down by 12 publishers for the manuscript of her first Harry Potter book before Bloomsbury picked it up for an advance of just £1,500.
There is no reason for any of us to get discouraged by rejection or by naysayers. Remember that persistence and hard work are the keys to success. The last quote I want to share is a great example of grit and determination. When asked about all the failed attempts to invent the light bulb Thomas Edison answered, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He also said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
So to close this Friday’s post, I want you to remember that rejection or failure are simply stepping stones on the path to success.