- The payoff for failure is almost as much as for succeeding.
Anonymous. Referring to executive contracts negotiated by leading lawyers in the United States. Quoted in Business Week (January 24, 1994)
- Lemons ripen faster than cherries.
Anonymous. Referring to the phrase “lemons” applied to bad products or companies. Quoted in Goldfinger (Robert Heller; 1998)
- Three failures denote uncommon strength. A weakling has not enough grit to fail thrice.
Minna Antrim (1856-1950) U.S. writer. At the Sign of the Golden Calf (1905)
- For every failure, there’s an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.
Mary Kay Ash (1915-2001) U.S. entrepreneur, business executive and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics. On People Management (1984)
- There are few things more dreadful than dealing with a man who knows he is going under, in his own eyes and in the eyes of others.
James Baldwin (1924-87) U.S. writer. The Price of the Ticket (1985), Introduction
- Ever tried, Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Samuel Beckett (1906-89) Irish playwright, novelist, and poet. Worstward Ho (1983)
- Accounting issues did not cause Enron’s stock price to fall-it’s failed business model did.
Joseph Berardino (b. 1951) U.S. business executive. Quoted in Guardian (London) (June 2002)
- There’s nothing the British like better than a bloke who comes from nowhere, makes it and then gets clobbered.
Melvyn Bragg (b. 1939) British broadcaster and novelist. Guardian (London) (September 23, 1988)
- A minute’s success pays the failure of years.
Robert Browning (1812-89) British poet. “Apollo and the Fates” (1886), st. 42
- The first undertakes in all great attempts commonly miscarry, and leave the advantages of their losses to those that come after them.
Samuel Butler (1612-80) English poet. Prose Observations (1660-80)
- In the built to flip world, the notion of investing persistent effort in order to build a great company seems, well, quaint unnecessary, even stupid.
James Collins (b. 1958) U.S. business thinker and author. Referring to the sort-term strategies of new-economy companies. “Built to Flip,” Fast Company (March 2000)
- Doing is overrated and success undesirable, but the bitterness of failure even more so.
Cyril Connolly (1903-74) British critic, essayist and novelist. The Unquiet Grave (1944)
- The benefits of many mergers have been lost during the integration phase.
Richard Corzone, British journalist. Quoted in treasury of Investment Wisdom (Bernice Cohen; 1999)
- When a business goes wrong, look only to the people who are running it.
Michael Dell (b. 1965) U.S. chairman and C.E.O. of Dell Computer Corporation. Quoted in In the Company of Giants (Rama Dev Jager; 1997)
- The most common cause of executive failure is inability or unwillingness to change with the demands of a new position. The executive who keeps on doing what he has done successfully before is almost bound to fail.
Peter F. Drucker (b. 1909) U.S. management consultant and academic. The Effective Executive (1967), ch. 3
- I had a lot of successes, but what really made me fearless was my complete failure at Zidd-Davis. Once you’ve lived through that, you know you can survive, and you’re not as scared…There’s nothing to build confidence like real achievement, but also like real failure.
Esther Dyson (b.1951) U.S. knowledge entrepreneur and government adviser. Referring to her experience of being hired to start a newspaper, which flopped. Interview, Reason Magazine (November 1996)
- Failing is good as long as it doesn’t become a habit.
Michael Eisner (b.1942) U.S. chairman and C.E.O. of the Disney Corporation. Speech (April 19, 1996)
- For everything you have missed, you have gained something else.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) U.S. essayist, lecturer, and poet. “Compensation,” Essays: First Series (1841)
- If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.
- C. Fields (1880-1946) U.S. actor and comedian. Attrib.
- The flaws of capitalism are people who don’t know how to run businesses well. They waste capital. They wither it away.
Steve Forbes (b.1947) U.S. publishing executive. Interview, Reason Magazine (May 1991)
- Microsoft is always just two years from failure.
Bill Gates (b.1955) U.S. entrepreneur, chairman and C.E.O. of Microsoft. 1997. Quoted in Goldfinger (Robert Heller; 1998)
- I think a man is a business failure who lets his family life interfere with his business record…business is no place for him.
- Paul Getty (1892-1976) U.S. entrepreneur, oil industry executive, and financier. 1973. Getty married five times. Quoted in Getty on Getty (Somerset de Chair; 1989), ch. 5
- The very best takeovers are thoroughly hostile. I’ve never seen a really good company taken over. I’ve only seen bad ones.
James Goldsmith (1933-97) British entrepreneur, financier and politician. Financial Times (London) (March 21, 1989)
- Honorable errors do not count as failures…but as seeds for progress in the quintessential activity of correction.
Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) U.S. geologist, palaeontologist, and philosopher of science. Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History (1998)
- It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic.
Lew Grade (1906-98) British entertainment entrepreneur. On the failure of his movie Raise the Titanic. Sun (London) (December 22, 1987)
- Too much money is a dangerous thing to deal with. And the point I’m saying is exponential-huge opportunities bring exponentially huge opportunities for failure as well.
Andrew S. Grove (b.1936) U.S. entrepreneur, author, and chairman of Intel Corporation. Speech, Los Angeles Times 3rd Annual Investment Strategies Conference, Los Angeles, California (May 22, 1999)
- Failing is a learning experience. It can be a gravestone or a stepping stone.
Bud Hadfield (b.1923) U.S. entrepreneur and founder of Kwik Kopy. Wealth Within Reach: Winning Strategies for Success from the Unconventional Wisdom of Bud Hadfield (1995)
- In the long run, failure was the only thing that worked predictably.
Joseph Heller (1923-99) U.S. novelist. Good as Gold (1979)
- The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.
Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) U.S. motivational author. Think and Grow Rich (1937)
- Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping.
Eric Hoffer (1902-83) U.S. philosopher. Reflections on the Human Condition (1973)
- To me success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents 1 per cent of your work which results from the 99 per cent that is called failure.
Soichiro Honda (1906-91) Japanese entrepreneur, founder and president of Honda Corporation. Quoted in Thriving on Chaos (Tom Peters; 1988)
- A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in the experience.
Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) U.S. humorist. Epigrams (1905)
- We don’t publicize our failures. When something doesn’t work don’t leave the corpse lying around.
Kenneth Iverson (1925-2002) U.S. industrialist, chairman and C.E.O. of Nucor Corporation. Speech (February 5, 1996)
- There is no excuse. If they don’t get the target, they don’t get their bonus-we have no discussions.
Liisa Joronen (b.1944) Finnish C.E.O. of SOL (formerly Lindstrom). Interview in The Winning Streak Mark II (Walter Goldsmith and David Clutterbuck; 1997)
- Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. The only time you don’t fail is the last time you try something, and it works. One fails forward toward success.
Charles Franklin Kettering (1876-1958) U.S. businessman and engineer. Quoted in Reader’s Digest (May 1989)
- When, in response to deteriorating business, a company blames outside forces or covers up its problems by changing its accounting methods or by using other tricks, it ensures failure.
Charles G. Koch (b.1935) U.S. management theorist, author, chairman and C.E.O. of Koch Industries. “Market-based Management,” Imprimis (August 1996)
- Failure is the foundation of success; success is the lurking place of failure.
Laozi (570?-490? B.C.) Chinese philosopher, reputed founder of Daoism. Daode Jing
- In their enterprises the people
Always ruin them when on the verge of success.
Be as careful at the end as at the beginning.
And there will be no ruined enterprises.
Laozi (570?-490? B.C.) Chinese philosopher, reputed founder of Daoism. Daode Jing
- How to Lose $100,000,000 and Other Valuable Information
Royal D. Little (1896-1989) U.S. founder of Textron Corporation. Book title. How to Lose $100,000,000 and Other Valuable Information (1979)
- In this business, by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself.
Michael C. Lynch (b.1946) Scottish historian. Referring to the volatility of the software business. Quoted in Playboy (1994)
- It is not impossibilities which fill us with deepest despair, but possibilities which we have failed to realize.
Robert Mallet (1915-2002) French poet and playwright. Apostilles: ou, L’Utilr et le Futile (1972)
- If you aren’t afraid to fail, then you probably don’t care enough about success.
Mark McCormack (1930-2003) U.S. entrepreneur, founder and C.E.O. of the International Management Group. What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School (1984)
- More strategies fail because they are overripe than because they are premature.
Kenichi Ohmae (b.1943) Japanese management consultant and theorist. The Mind of the Strategist (1982)
- Failures are like skinned knees-painful, but superficial.
- Ross Perot (b.1930) U.S. entrepreneur, venture capitalist and politician. Attrib.
- If we do not succeed, then we run the risk of failure.
Dan Quayle (b.1947) U.S. former vice president. December 6, 1989. Quoted in Esquire (August 1992)
- Bankruptcy would be like stepping into a tepid bath and slashing your wrists: You might not feel yourself dying, but that’s what would happen.
Felix Rohatyn (b.1928) U.S. investment company executive. Wall Street Journal (March 1985)
- It is hard to fail; but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) U.S. president. Speech, Hamilton Club, Chicago, Illinois. “The Doctrine of the Strenuous Life” (April 10, 1899)
- At some point, we all have to decade how we are going to fail: by not going far enough, or by going too far. The only alternative for the most successful (maybe even the most fulfilled) people is the latter.
Harriet Rubin (b.1952) U.S. author. “How Will You Fail?,” Fast Company (1999)
- It was not the power of the Spaniards that destroyed the Aztec Empire, but the disbelief of the Aztecs in themselves.
- F. Schumacher (1911-77) British economist and conservationist. Roots of Economic Growth (1962)
- You don’t go broke making a profit.
Nicholas Shehadie (b.1926) Australian sportsman and business executive. Quoted in “Sayings of the Week,” Sydney Morning Herald (March 26, 1987)
- You don’t get any marks for trying…I’m not interested in any sophisticated reasons for failure.
Allen Sheppard (b.1932) British chairman of Vizual Business Tools and former chairman of Grand Metropolitan. Business (August 1990)
- The difference between failure and success is doing a thing nearly right and doing it exactly right.
Edward Emerson Simmons (1852-1931) U.S. painter. Attrib.
- I detest bankruptcy. To me it signifies failure-personal failure, corporate failure.
George Steinbrenner (b.1930) U.S. owner of the New York Yankees. New York Times (1992)
- Key to creating wealth in the third industrial revolution is the willingness and ability to shut down the old and open up the new…This requires a high tolerance for failure.
Lester Thurow (b.1938) U.S. economist, management theorist, and writer. Speech, Sixth Workshop on Inventing the Organization of the 21st Century, Munich, Germany.”Building Wealth in a Knowledge-Based Society” (February 2000)
- An ill-planned scheme, though aided much, will go awry.
Tiruvalluvar (fl. 1st century) Indian poet. The Kural, 468
- One of the most important tasks of a manager is to eliminate his people’s excuses for failure.
Robert Townsend (b.1920) U.S. business executive and author. Further Up the Organization (1984)
- It used to bug the hell out of me when I’d drop out of the bidding for something and then get a call from a reporter asking, “So, Mr. Trump, how does it feel to get beat?”
Donald J. Trump (b.1946) U.S. real estate developer. Trump: Surviving at the Top (co-written with Charles Leerhsen; 1990)
- Bankruptcy is a sacred state, a condition beyond conditions…attempts to investigate it are necessarily obscene like spiritualism. One knows only he has passed into it and lives beyond us, in a condition not ours.
John Updike (b.1932) U.S. novelist and critic. “The Bankrupt Man,” Hugging the Shore (1983)
- There is no human failure greater than to launch a profoundly important endeavor and then leave it half done.
Barbara Ward (1914-81) British economist, journalist and educator. The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations (1962)
- When the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight.
Jack Welch (b.1935) U.S. former chairman and C.E.O. of General Electric. Inc. (March 1995)