The story is that Edison failed more than 10,000 times when trying to invent the light bulb.
Never mind the fact that Thomas Edison never actually said that. And never mind that he didn’t even invent the light bulb. This quote is used any time somebody fails at something. The thought seems to be that Edison kept trying so you should keep trying.
That is NOT the lesson at all.
The real lesson behind this quote is that every time you fail, you need to learn something from it. You have never truly failed unless you have learned nothing from it.
“A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in on the experience”.
– Elbert Hubbard
After every experiment Edison would take copious notes. He was determined to learn something every time.
While trying to perfect the light bulb, there was a huge explosion in the lab. Edison covered in soot, with the smoke still swirling around him, got up and was taking notes. A reporter asked him why he was taking notes as this was certainly not the answer he was looking for. It had caused an explosion. Edison replied “Well, who knows, someday, someone may need an explosion.”
It is not helpful to use this quote when someone is failing over and over again if they not learning anything from it. You must be learning something and not just ‘trying again.’ I am not suggesting that failure is final. It is only final if this is your final attempt. I AM saying that you need to learn something with every failure to improve. Actually, you need to learn from your successes too. But you will always learn more from your failures.
Look at football teams. They go over the game tapes and find out what happened. What went wrong? How can they improve next game?
By the was, the Edison quote is probably taken from this actual quote. It is from an interview with Edison, published in the January 1921 issue of American Magazine.
“After we had conducted thousands of experiments on a certain project without solving the problem, one of my associates, after we had conducted the crowning experiment and it had proved a failure, expressed discouragement and disgust over our having failed to find out anything. I cheerily assured him that we had learned something. For we had learned for a certainty that the thing couldn’t be done that way, and that we would have to try some other way.”