How Michael Jordan and Thomas Edison Failed Their Way Forward

by / ⠀Startup Advice / August 24, 2010

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
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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?

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

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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