Willingness to Fail is the Key to an Inventor’s Success

failedThe successful inventors, designers, engineers, artists, chefs, and entrepreneurs of the world know that the keys to success are hard work, sensible risk-taking, taking on challenges, failing, and trying again till you succeed.

Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor, holding over 1000 patents. His inventions include the electric lightbulb, motion picture cameras, and the phonograph. Here are quotes that give clues to the reasons for his success:

  • Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
  • I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work.
  • Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
  • Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.
  • The essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.
  • The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like hard work.
  • I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.

Edison clearly had “grit” and a “growth-based mindset.” He also loved to tinker, and had a passion for learning. (Click on any of those color links for tips on instilling those traits in your child. Also read here about the impact of praise on your child’s mindset.)

Here are some ways to raise an Inventor (or designer, engineer, artist, chef,  entrepreneur, author, builder, etc.)

  • Create a culture where struggle and risk-taking is valued more than the “right answer”.
  • Instead of defining things as “pass” or “fail”, try “mastered” and “not yet.”
  • Tell stories about successful people that illustrate how grit helped them succeed.
  • Let them know that everyone, no matter how talented, runs up against things they can’t do. The ones who succeed are the ones who fail, pick themselves up, fail again and persevere till they succeed.
  • Talk about mistakes and failures as normal parts of learning – not reasons to quit.
  • Let them see you fail and keep trying. Don’t say about yourself “I’m just no good at this.” Say “I guess I need to try harder.”
  • Honor them for times when they set their own goals, begin the work, face road blocks, and carry on to completion.
  • Make things together. Come up with an idea for what you want to accomplish. Draw it and plan it. Build it. Test it. Ask each other: what is working about it? What could be better? Make it better together. Show it to other people. Ask them what could be better.
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