Media Mashup: December 22, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 6.53.56 AMSuccess And Failure

This past year I took up two hobbies that started with frequent failure: learning Chinese and shooting a pistol. Although I am hardly successful at either endeavor, I have gained some skill at both.

It’s often said that failure leads to success, but many of us, like me, would rather moving straight to the positive side without going through the embarrassment of not doing so well. has some useful observations about the relationship between failure and success.

“The sweetest victory is the one that’s most difficult. The one that requires you to reach down deep inside, to fight with everything you’ve got, to be willing to leave everything out there on the battlefield—without knowing, until that do-or-die moment, if your heroic effort will be enough. Society doesn’t reward defeat, and you won’t find many failures documented in history books. The exceptions are those failures that become stepping stones to later success. Such is the case with Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention was the light bulb, which purportedly took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” a reporter asked. “I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” Edison responded. “The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.

“According to a recent article in Business Week, many companies are deliberately seeking out those with track records reflecting both failure and success, believing that those who have been in the trenches, survived battle and come out on the other side have irreplaceable experience and perseverance. They’re veterans of failure. The prevailing school of thought in progressive companies—such as Intuit, General Electric, Corning and Virgin Atlantic—is that great success depends on great risk, and failure is simply a common byproduct. Executives of such organizations don’t mourn their mistakes but instead parlay them into future gains.”See more

See more at, a tech blog, analyzes some of the wealthiest people in the world and cites their many failures as the reason for their success.

“Most people think inventors are born inventors, with some special talent or gift. Their genetic makeup must be different than that of us mere mortals. But in fact, the opposite is true. Inventors are created; they’re ‘grinders.’

“Sir James Dyson’s company is now a worldwide success, selling bag-less vacuum cleaners in over 50 countries. It made him a billionaire. But he had to fail a lot of times before he can get to that winning formula.

“In fact, he created 5,127 vacuum prototypes, all of which could be considered ‘failed attempts’. He spent 15 years perfecting his product before taking the DCO1 to market in ’93.”

The article also focuses on the failures–and ultimate success–of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and others.


Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist, who reported in Europe and the Middle East. He teaches media law and international journalism. Send suggestions and tips to


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