How do you learn? More than likely, learning from your mistakes is one of the ways you learn. Sometimes STEMists go through school afraid to make a mistake, but we’re here to tell you that failure is a groovy way to learn. Failure is how we all get better; it’s how we succeed.
Failure also teaches you about resiliency and grit:
- Resiliency is how you bounce back from adversity
- Grit is how you persevere through challenges
As you learn and fail, you’ll need to bounce back and hang in there when things get tough. Remember, this is an important part of the learning process.
Scientists, inventors, and engineers are constantly battling failure. They also must be resilient and have a lot of grit to make it through their challenges. These STEMists confront failure and use it to their advantage. In fact, these failures help them learn how to do their projects better the next time!
So, the next time you fail, remember these stories of how failure can turn into success:
Elon Musk and SpaceX
Elon Reeve Musk is an entrepreneur, engineer, inventor and investor; he is the founder of the company that became PayPal; CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors; and CEO of SpaceX, the maker of launch vehicles and spacecraft.
Musk’s goal through SpaceX is to revolutionize space technology with reusable rockets so people can live on other planets.
When SpaceX’s latest rocket landing missed the mark, the company tweeted, “Close, but no cigar. This time.” Musk tweeted, “Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event. Ship is fine minor repairs. Exciting day!”
His attitude is like that of a great inventor—accepting of failure, sometimes even excited—ready to apply what his team has learned to the next launch.
Jack Andraka is a STEMist not much older than you! Born in 1997, Andraka is an inventor, scientist and cancer researcher. When a family friend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Andraka wanted to find a way to test for cancers – similar to how diabetics check their blood sugar levels every day.
He contacted 200 research labs and universities about his idea – and received 199 rejections. Finally, a professor at Johns Hopkins University agreed to work with Andraka. Thanks for Andraka’s resiliency and grit, he developed a fast, easy way to detect increases in a certain protein, which often indicate early stages of pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers.
Imagine the world without Harry Potter!
After 12 rejections from publishers, author J.K. Rowling sold her first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for only $4,000. Rowling is now worth an estimated $1 billion and has had great success with the Harry Potter series and films.
Thomas Edison, inventor and businessman, had many failures that led him to great inventions. For example, in 1889, Edison created Edison Portland Cement Co. because he believed everything could be made out of concrete. He made cement cabinets, pianos, and houses; however, people did not purchase many of his products. Edison realized the public would not pay for his costly cement products. And, although the idea was not widely accepted, it was not a total failure. Edison’s company was hired to build Yankee Stadium in the Bronx!
His most notable failure, however, is the light bulb. Edison created 10,000 prototypes before getting it right. He said, “I have not failed 100 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
James Wright was an engineer at General Electric when he failed at making a substitute for rubber during World War II. Wright was hoping his silicone substitute would help the U.S. Government make airplane tires, boots for soldiers, and other items that used rubber during manufacturing at wartime. These items and other materials were being produced at a faster rate, causing a decrease in the availability of rubber. One of Wright’s experiments included adding boric acid to the silicone oil. It did not work to replace rubber, but his invention gave children hours and hours of playtime with his Silly Putty invention!
And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, the first book written by author Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, was rejected by 27 publishers. This means 27 companies did not think Dr. Seuss knew how to write children’s books! Later, Dr. Seuss’ friend helped him find a company to publish the book, and since then, Dr. Seuss wrote more than 60 books and sold over 600 million copies. In fact, Dr. Seuss continues to be a best-selling author, even after his death in 1991.
In 1968, 3M Laboratories researcher and scientist, Spencer Silver, was tasked with creating a strong adhesive. His experiments were not successful, but he did make a less strong adhesive that he learned could be easily removed without leaving a mark on the object or material it was stuck to. His newest, less strong adhesive was not used by the company. Nearly six years later, a co-worker took the invention and applied it to scraps of paper to mark his place in his choir hymn book. Later he applied it to yellow scraps of paper from the 3M Company, and the Post-It Note was born!
Failure is nothing to be ashamed about! In fact, it’s part of your journey to success. Failure encourages, builds confidence and teaches. It also teaches you to be resilient and have grit.