I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge.
—Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) Russian-born American Composer, Musician
In a total work, the failures have their not unimportant place.
—May Sarton (1912–95) American Children’s Books Writer, Poet, Novelist
Misfortunes one can endure—they come from outside, they are accidents. But to suffer for one’s own faults—Ah! there is the sting of life.
—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Irish Poet, Playwright
Because a fellow has failed once or twice or a dozen times, you don’t want to set him down as a failure till he’s dead or loses his courage—and that’s the same thing.
—George Horace Lorimer (1867–1937) American Editor, Publisher, Philanthropist
Whoever admits that he is too busy to improve his methods, has acknowledged himself to be at the end of his rope. And that is always the saddest predicament which anyone can get into.
—J. Ogden Armour (1863–1927) American Businessperson
They who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune, rather than to insufficient application. At the core of every true talent there is an awareness of the difficulties inherent in any achievement, and the confidence that by persistence and patience something worthwhile will be realized. Thus talent is a species of vigor.
—Eric Hoffer (1902–83) American Philosopher, Author
The great question is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure.
My downfall raises me to infinite heights.
—Napoleon I (1769–1821) Emperor of France
Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits.
—Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–94) Scottish Novelist
Edison failed 10,000 times before he made the electric light. Do not be discouraged if you fail a few times.
—Napoleon Hill (1883–1970) American Author, Journalist, Attorney, Lecturer
Turn your scars into stars.
—Robert H. Schuller (1926–2015) American Christian Televangelist, Author
Remember you will not always win. Some days, the most resourceful individual will taste defeat. But there is, in this case, always tomorrow – after you have done your best to achieve success today.
—Maxwell Maltz (1899–1975) American Surgeon, Motivational Writer
A minute’s success pays the failure of years.
—Robert Browning (1812–89) English Poet
Too many of those with unrealized aspirations have set them aside due to fear of failure. The bigger the dream, the greater the fear. Doing less than our best allays this fear. I could have done better if I’d tried, we assure ourselves. Among the least appreciated reasons for doing superficial, second-rate work of any kind is the comfort of knowing it’s not our best that’s on the line. By not trying too hard, we avoid learning what our true potential is, and having to fulfill it. Doing our best can be deeply threatening. It forces us to consider what we’re actually capable of accomplishing. Once we learn that lesson, we can’t unlearn it. Our true potential becomes both a shining light we can follow and an oppressive burden of expectation that might, or might not, be met.
You cannot measure a man by his failures. You must know what use he makes of them. What did they mean to him. What did he get out of them.
—Orison Swett Marden (1850–1924) American New Thought Writer, Physician, Entrepreneur
You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.
—Zig Ziglar (1926–2012) American Author
Failure is an event, not a person. Yesterday ended last night.
—Zig Ziglar (1926–2012) American Author
Genius is often only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it—so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success. As the tide goes clear out, so it comes clear in. In business sometimes prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn. A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. 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 (1856–1915) American Writer, Publisher, Artist, Philosopher
Rather than cripple, failure can strengthen. Depending on how we respond to them, blows can shatter us as if we were a cheap clay pot or temper us as they would steel.
There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.
—Michel de Montaigne (1533–92) French Essayist
A man may fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.
—John Burroughs (1837–1921) American Naturalist, Writer
I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.
—Earl Warren (1891–1974) American Judge, Politician
Rushing into action, you fail. Trying to grasp things, you lose them. Forcing a project to completion, you ruin what was almost ripe.
—Laozi (fl.6th Century BCE) Chinese Philosopher, Sage
Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.
—Robert F. Kennedy (1925–68) American Politician, Civil Rights Activist
Men do not fail; they give up trying.
—Elihu Root (1845–1937) American Jurist, Statesman
No one ever won a chess game by betting on each move. Sometimes you have to move backward to get a step forward.
—Amar Bose (1929–2013) American Entrepreneur
There are no secrets to success: don’t waste time looking for them. Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work, and persistence.
—Colin Powell (1937–2021) American Military Leader
Failure sometimes enlarges the spirit. You have to fall back upon humanity and God.
—Charles Cooley (1864–1929) American Sociologist
For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
—Steve Jobs (1955–2011) American Entrepreneur, Businessperson
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!
—Walter Scott (1771–1832) Scottish Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Lawyer