As a young man, Abraham Lincoln went to war a captain and returned a private. Afterwards, he was a failure as a businessman. As a lawyer in Springfield, he was too impractical and temperamental to be a success. He turned to politics and was defeated in his first try for the legislature, again defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for congress, defeated in his application to be commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858. At about that time, he wrote in a letter to a friend, "I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth."
Thomas Edison's teachers said he was "too stupid to learn anything." He was fired from his first two jobs for being "non-productive." As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps."
Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4-years-old and did not read until he was 7. His parents thought he was "sub-normal," and one of his teachers described him as "mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams." He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He did eventually learn to speak and read. Even to do a little math.
Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded.
Rocket scientist Robert Goddard found his ideas bitterly rejected by his scientific peers on the grounds that rocket propulsion would not work in the rarefied atmosphere of outer space.
When Julie Andrews took her first screen test for MGM studios, the final determination was that "She's not photogenic enough for film."
Enrico Caruso's music teacher said he had no voice at all and could not sing. His parents wanted him to become an engineer.
There is a professor at MIT who offers a course on failure. He does that, he says, because failure is a far more common experience than success. An interviewer once asked him if anybody ever failed the course on failure. He thought a moment and replied, "No, but there were two Incompletes."
"When the Columbia space shuttle broke apart above Texas in February 2003, no one knew that it could one day result in success. NASA astronaut Dr. Charles Camarda, however, believes the tragedy has provided both current and future engineers with a motto to live by - where there is failure, there is knowledge and understanding that doesn't come with success."
Most of us probably don’t remember learning to walk, but surely our parents do, and they can vouch that we didn’t get it right the first time we tried. Did we give up and continue to crawl? No. We tried again until we got it right. But not only did we try again, we practiced walking so much we were eventually able to run. We weren’t born knowing everything, but we were born with the ability to learn and grow. ~ Katie Barbaro