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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Failure & Mistake




"There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose." Elbert Hubbard


What They Said About the Gettysburg Address






Mike Tyson: In an interview with USA Today published on June 3, 2005, Tyson said, "My whole life has been a waste – I've been a failure." He continued: "I just want to escape. I'm really embarrassed with myself and my life. I want to be a missionary. I think I could do that while keeping my dignity without letting people know they chased me out of the country. I want to get this part of my life over as soon as possible. In this country nothing good is going to come of me. People put me so high; I wanted to tear that image down." Tyson began to spend much of his time tending to his 350 pigeons in Paradise Valley, an upscale enclave near Phoenix, Arizona.

Turkish proverb: No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn back.

Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles, 1962: "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." 

Anonymous: "A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame others."

Milton Friedman: "If you make a mistake and refuse to admit it, you hurt yourself twice: once, when you make the mistake; a second time, when you refuse to learn from your mistake."

Terje Toftenes: “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement. This statement was by Lord Kelvin in 1900, which was shattered only five years later when Einstein published his paper on special relativity. The new theories proposed by Einstein challenged the then-current framework of understanding. This forced the scientific community to open up to an alternate view of the true nature of our reality. A great example of how things that once were regarded as truth have changed. Lord Kelvin’s statements bears with it the voice of paradigms past…We knew that the Earth was flat, we knew that we were the center of the universe, and we knew that a manmade heavier than air piece of machinery could not take flight. Through all stages of human history, intellectual authorities have pronounced their supremacy by ridiculing or suppressing elements of reality that simply didn’t fit within the framework of accepted knowledge. Are we really any different today? Have we really changed our acceptance towards things that won’t fit the frame? Maybe there are concepts of our reality we have yet to understand, and if we open our eyes maybe we will see that something significant has been overlooked.”

Robert F. Kennedy: "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."

John Wesley Powell: "The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing."

Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another. But by all means, try something."

Beverly Sills: "You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try."

Nadine Stair: "If I had to live my life over again, I'd dare to make more mistakes next time.

Oscar Wilde: "Experience is the name that everyone gives to their mistakes."

Frank Lloyd Wright: "A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."

Thomas Henry Huxley: “There is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life.”

Henry Ford: “One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again.”

W. Somerset Maugham: "The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant, and kind. Failure makes people bitter and cruel."

F.A. Hayek: "Human reason can neither predict nor deliberately shape its own future. Its advances consist in finding out where it has been wrong."

Julius Sextus Frontinus, Roman engineer, 1st century AD: "Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further development."

Western Union internal memo (1876): "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."

Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse (1872): "Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."

Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM (1943): "I think there's a world market for maybe five computers."

Popular Mechanics, March 1949: "Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1 1/2 tons."


Dr. Carl Wickland, Gateway Of Understanding:

When potatoes were introduced into Scotland in 1728 the clergy indignantly denounced them as unfit for consumption by Christians because they were not mentioned in the Bible; France scoffed at all early efforts to introduce potatoes into the national diet and in England the British labor leader publicly shouted that potatoes were fit only for hogs and cattle and not for men.

As late as 1840 an Eastern city passed an ordinance against the use of bathtubs, and umbrellas were at one time denounced by the clergy as being contrary to the biblical statement that "The Father which is in Heaven... sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45)

When Benjamin Franklin made his kite and key experiments in an endeavor to prove that lightning was electricity, he was ridiculed as a dreamer...

When Morse petitioned Congress for an appropriation to construct a telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington, a skeptical congressman sarcastically offered as an amendment to the bill the suggestion that Mr. Morse at the same time establish a telegraph line to the moon...

Andrew D. White relates in "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom": "When the Copernican doctrine that the earth and planets revolve about the sun - perhaps the greatest and most ennobling of scientific truths - was upheld by Galileo as a truth and proved to be a truth by his telescope, the church forbade all books which affirmed the motion of the earth."

The theological opponents disproved Galileo's theory of the revolution of the earth on its axis by placing a crowbar in a hole in the ground, with the idea that if Galileo was right the crowbar would fall out. As it did not do so, Galileo was deemed a heretic and condemned to imprisonment and saved his life only by retracting during his trial. But as he left his accusers he declared under his breath, "And yet it moves."

White states further: "Copernicus escaped persecution only by death; Giordano Bruno was burned alive as a monster of impiety; Newton was bitterly attacked for dethroning Providence."

"When quinine was introduced in Europe in 1638 it was stigmatized as an invention of the devil and the opposition was so strong that it was not introduced in England until 1653."

"As late as 1770 religious scruples were still felt regarding the lightning-rod of Benjamin Franklin, the theological theory being that the storm is the voice of God."

"In 1847 when the Scotch physician advocated the use of anaesthetics in obstetrical cases he was met by a storm of opposition. From pulpit to pulpit Simpson's use of chloroform was denounced as impious and contrary to Holy Writ; texts were cited abundantly, the ordinary declaration being that to use chloroform was 'to avoid one part of the primeval curse on woman.'"



Sir William Siemens, on the announcement of the first light bulb (1880): "Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated as being unworthy of science and mischievous to its true progress."

Member of the French Academy of Sciences: "I personally have examined Mr. Edison's phonograph, and I find it is nothing but the clever use of ventriloquism."

Margot Dalton: "I make it a policy to try never to make a complete idiot of myself twice in the same way. After all, there's always all kinds of new ways to make a complete idiot of myself. Why repeat the old ones?"

Humphrey Davy: "The most important of my discoveries have been suggested to me by my failures."

Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet after the Pearl Harbor attack: Speaking to cheering subordinates at the news of the attack: "I am afraid we have awakened a sleeping giant and have instilled in him a terrible resolve."

Jon Meacham, Newsweek, March 31, 2003 issue, interviewing former President George H. W. Bush during Operation Iraqi Freedom: "What do you think is going on with France? [Pause] They’re French. Any elaboration? Nope. There’s always been some friction. I was once talking to a group of French intellectuals, and I said, 'You think we’re arrogant, and we think you’re French.' And they looked at each other and thought maybe I’d said something very intelligent..."

Victor Zammit: "Orthodox scientists and surgeons before 1912 threw their surgical tools to the ground and put dirt on them to try to ridicule Dr. Joseph Lister's findings about infection by germs."

John Adams: "We have not men fit for the times. We are deficient in genius, education, in travel, fortune - in everything. I feel unutterable anxiety."

Bill Gates (1981): “640K [of computer memory] ought to be enough for anybody.”

Thomas Malthus: In 1798 he declared that "the power of the earth to provide subsistence" is finite, and that "a gigantic, inevitable famine" would be forthcoming; but George Gilder has pointed out that Malthus "failed to grasp that it is not the earth but man that produces food." Relentless techno-agricultural advances have made a liar out of Malthus.

Nick Murray, The Excellent Financial Advisor: "All pessimists are Malthusians, in that they extrapolate the problem - whatever the problem is - in a straight line, but they hold the potential for solution of the problem - i.e. human ingenuity and/or will - constant... Humankind in general, and Americans in particular, are always at their best in a crisis. This isn't a lesson of history, it's the lesson of history."

BusinessWeek, August 13, 1979: Cover story, "The Death of Equities: How Inflation Is Destroying The Stock Market... For better or worse, then, the US economy probably has to regard the death of equities as a near-permanent condition..." This was written within throwing distance of the start of the great Reagan Bull Market.

Roy Orbison: The legendary rock star of "Pretty Woman" fame tells the story of his early days in the music business. Roy's beautiful singing voice, as it happened, was heard by Johnny Cash. Country Western's great baritone "deep-throat" enjoyed what he heard so much that he approached Roy and graciously offered a contact with the owner of the record company then-currently promoting Cash's work: "Tell him Johnny Cash recommended that you call him." Roy did just that, introduced himself on the phone, only to be greeted by the incredible response: "Johnny Cash doesn't run this record company!" to which was added the slamming down of the phone in Roy's ear!

Wilbur Wright: "I confess that in 1901, I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for 50 years... Ever since, I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions."

Doug C. Engelbart: "A person's ability to grow and succeed is directly related to [an] ability to suffer embarrassment" as one learns and practices new skills.

Richard Feynman: played an important role on the Presidential Rogers Commission, which investigated the Challenger disaster. Feynman's account reveals a disconnect between NASA's engineers and executives that was far more striking than expected. His interviews of NASA's high-ranking managers revealed startling misunderstandings of elementary concepts. He concluded that the NASA management's space shuttle reliability estimate was fantastically unrealistic. He warned in the commission's report, "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."



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