How Michael Jordan and Thomas Edison Failed Their Way Forward : Under30CEO How Michael Jordan and Thomas Edison Failed Their Way Forward : Under30CEO
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How Michael Jordan and Thomas Edison Failed Their Way Forward

| August 24, 2010 | 16 Comments

MJShootingWhen you hear the word failure what often comes to mind? When I hear failure I think of times when I haven’t won at a sporting event or haven’t finished within a deadline or maybe when I have tried to do something, like tying a jelly snake into a knot in my mouth, and been utterly embarrassed. But this isn’t always the case. It has taken many failures to get to where I am today, it even took a few failures to get this blog finally together, but so few people see failure in that positive light.

In fact, when asked what they thought of failure, for the most part people gave negative reactions. I want to challenge that negativity.  There is a saying that an expert is merely someone who has failed more than anyone else in that field. You may think being an expert has nothing to do with failure however two, what I would consider, experts in their field are renowned for their failures.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time; his brief bio on he is described as ‘single-handedly redefining the NBA superstar’  and yet to get there he openly admits to failing more than most. In a famous ad campaign launched by ‘Nike’, Michael is quoted as saying he has:

  • Lost almost 300 games (that’s more games than many NBA players have court time in)
  • Missed over 9000 shots at goal (again more shots than an average NBA player even takes)
  • 26 times he was given the ball to take the game winning shot and MISSED

Jordan goes on to say the reason he has succeeded boils down to his constantly failure and used failure as motivation to shoot for success. In other words Jordan viewed failures as stepping stones towards success; his shooting average was just below 50% so to score he would have to take two shots, one to fail the other to score.

Thomas Edison

Another man, considered the greatest inventor of his time, Thomas Edison, was responsible for over 1,000 different patents, some refinements of previous inventions but many completely new ideas. Edison is famous not only for his inventions but also his attitude on failure. In his mind failure was simply another stepping stone on the road to success. Unlike Michael Jordan however, Edison’s rate of success was significantly below Jordan’s 50% average. But unlike the average person Edison continued to try and try again. The famous story goes, Edison failed to refine the light bulb (one of the few creations he merely refined but did not invent) so many times it took him 10,000 attempts to perfect. However rather than accepting failure 9,999 times he is quoted as answering questions on his failures as rather: ‘I have not failed. I have just found 9,999 ways that do not work’.

Using these two great men from the modern age and the industrial revolution respectively will you heed their advice? Will you use your failures not for despair but rather as light bulbs that didn’t work or shots available for rebound? Where in your life will you fail your way forward?

Scott Cowley is an 18 year old entrepreneur, writer and student currently writing a book about the opportunities available for Gen Y.

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Category: Startup Advice

  • Alan Kong

    That’s a great article Scott. First off, I’d like to commend you on being an 18 year old entrepreneur, you’re starting off early and I wish I did at an earlier age. There’s just so much more time!! So keep it up Scott!

    And for the article, it’s very true that these two failed numerous times before succeeding. Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because he wasn’t good enough (said his coach). In life there will always be naysayers and when you go out to prove them wrong, you work harder and eventually obtain your goals. Allowing failure to become a motivation to succeed is a must for any entrepreneur.

    To all my fellow entrepreneurs or soon to be entrepreneurs, keep trucking forward!! If you fall down, get back up and try again!

    Alan Kong

  • Deniskersaint

    This is the most encouraging article I ever read. Because it took an unexpected angel. With a reconizable figure to garn your attention.

  • SCowley

    Thanks Denis!

    Great to know people are reding and learning from my work

  • Pundit Fight

    It’s probably worth listening to Jordan’s ‘Hall of Fame’ speech. Jordan being cut from his high school team has been so synonymous with MJ’s legend that its almost an afterthought, referenced countless times in articles and Ad campaigns.

    But in his ‘Hall of Fame’ speech there is almost a bitterness, something deeper underlying in that failure. He got some flak for that component of the speech. You not only need to get back up, there needs to be a killer instinct. A fire that refuses to die which is necessary.

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  • Nunzio Bruno

    It’s not always easy to embrace your failures but you make reference to do of the best examples of why it really is ok to not always come out on top. I try to keep that kind of mind set with everything I do with . I know that not every post is going to be a huge success but I make sure to learn from it. I know that not every client that walks into my office isn’t going to have a perfect cookie cutter problem for us to work through – but it that kind of stuff that adds depth to my practice. Nice insight!


    Nice! From the book “Think and Grow Rich” The reasons we fail is because we don’t have all the knowledge we need to reach the certain outcome we are looking to reach. Goal should always be to get to that outcome the quickest way we know how, with the least amount of “failures”. Enjoyed the post!!

  • Making Moves

    A professor used to tell my class, “If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t working hard enough. But I will never accept the same mistake twice.” You have failed if you haven’t learned from your mistake.

  • Usama

    Love this example. Failure is inevitable. But through failure comes the process of education and perfection.

  • Jared O’Toole

    If you actually looked you would see it was written by the same author and BI actually published it a month after our site. Scott obviously submitted it to a couple of outlets to get it published.

  • Manoj

    There is a saying in India which translate to
    “only they fall in battlefeilds who ride horses, how will they fall who crawl on the ground ”

  • Manoj

    There is a saying in India which translate to
    “only they fall in battlefeilds who ride horses, how will they fall who crawl on the ground ”

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