OBSERVATION: Talent is, of course, important, but the two qualities that make the critical difference between talented people who succeed and those who don’t are persistence and positivity. Successful people don’t give up or lose confidence; they learn from every experience and get better.

Two of America’s greatest inventors, Charles Kettering  and Thomas Edison, embraced the same philosophy, which allowed them to take in stride what others called failure, and build upon it.

Kettering said: “I failed forward to  success.  An inventor fails

999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.”

Thomas Edison said  “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.  I don’t get discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.  I failed my way to success.”

Henry Ford took a similar approach: “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” And Malcolm Forbes said, “Failure is success if we learn from it.”

Thomas Watson, Sr., founder of IBM, understood the close relationship between success and the willingness to fail. “If you want to increase your success rate,” he said,  “double your failure rate.”

Finally, take it from Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeeded.”

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  1. Another example can be found in the Civil War. Contrast Union Generals George McClellan versus Ulysses S. Grant. Two times McClellan had the chance to end the Civil War early (once with the Penisula Campaign and the second time at Antietam) but did not because he was afraid that he might fail. Grant was not afraid to fail and as a result he ended the war.

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