Failure

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Failure refers to the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.

Quotes[edit]

  • All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
  • In the lexicon of youth, which
    Fate reserves for a bright manhood, there is no such word
    As—fail!
  • He that is down needs fear no fall
    He that is low, no pride.
  • They never fail who die
    In a great cause.
    • Lord Byron, Marino Faliero, Act ii. Sc. 2 (1919).
  • Imagination is a force that can actually manifest a reality. ... Don’t put limitations on yourself. Other people will do that for you. Don’t do that to yourself. Don’t bet against yourself. And take risk. NASA has this phrase that they like, "Failure is not an option." But failure has to be an option. In art and exploration, failure has to be an option. Because it is a leap of faith. And no important endeavor that required innovation was done without risk. You have to be willing to take those risks. … In whatever you are doing, failure is an option. But fear is not.
  • If failure has the strength to turn your life into bitterness itself, then patience has the strength to turn your life into the sweetest joy. Do not surrender to fate after a single failure. Failure, at most, precedes success.
  • Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
    • Thomas Edison, spoken in 1877 as quoted in From Telegraph to Light Bulb with Thomas Edison (2007) by Deborah Hedstrom, p. 22.
  • I'm proof against that word failure. I've seen behind it. The only failure a man ought to fear is failure of cleaving to the purpose he sees to be best.
  • To me the greatest moment in an experiment is always just before I learn whether the particular idea is a good or a bad one. Thus even a failure is exciting, and most of my ideas have of course been wrong.
    • Ivar Giaever, Electron Tunneling and Superconductivity, Nobel Lecture [1] (December 12, 1973).
  • You are responsible for all of your successes, and the lack thereof. And that is the essential point that failure, your ever-faithful friend, wants to make: that your failure could not exist without you—without your stupidity, without your lies, without your mistakes, your uselessness, your lack of faith, your ineptitude, your unjustifiable confidence in your alleged abilities, you stupid loser—failure is your only friend. Failure is your only lover. Failure is your only hope.
  • Half the failures in life arise from pulling in one's horse as he is leaping.
  • The acceptance of ambiguity implies more than the commonplace understanding that some good things and some bad things happen to us. It means that we know that good and evil are inextricably intermixed in human affairs; that they contain, and sometimes embrace, their opposites; that success may involve failure of a different kind, and failure may be a kind of triumph.
    • Sydney J. Harris, Clearing the Ground, "Learning to Live with Ambiguity" (1986).
  • 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, as quoted from Electrical Review (c. 1895) without further attribution in The Search for the North Pole (1896) by Evelyn Briggs Baldwin, p. 520, this was later published as part of various works by Hubbard, including FRA Magazine : A Journal of Affirmation (1915), and An American Bible (1918) edited by Alice Hubbard.
  • I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.
    • John Keats, Letter to J. A. Hessey (October 9, 1818).
  • There is not a fiercer hell than the failure in a great object.
  • Don't fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.
    • Bruce Lee, Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom for Daily Living, Part VIII : On Ultimate (Final) Principles, p. 121 (2000).
  • With engineering, I view this year's failure as next year's opportunity to try it again. Failures are not something to be avoided. You want to have them happen as quickly as you can so you can make progress rapidly.
  • I have no use for men who fail. The cause of their failure is no business of mine, but I want successful men as my associates.
    • John D. Rockefeller, as quoted in Silas Hubbard, John D. Rockefeller and His Career, p. 72 (1904).
  • It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, speech at the Hamilton Club, Chicago (10 April 1899) The Strenuous Life (vol. 13 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed.), chapter 1, p. 320 (1926).
  • It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.
  • We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.
    • Samuel Smiles, Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct, Ch. XI : Self-Culture — Facilities and Difficulties (1859).
  • Failure makes success so much sweeter, and allows you to thumb your nose at the crowds.
    • Wilbur Smith, The Secrets of My Success, an interview for Live magazine, the Mail on Sunday (UK) newspaper (December 5, 2010).
  • Never mind failures; they are quite natural, they are the beauty of life, these failures. What would life be without them? It would not be worth having if it were not for struggles. Where would be the poetry of life? Never mind the struggles, the mistakes. I never heard a cow tell a lie, but it is only a cow—never a man. So never mind these failures, these little backslidings; hold the ideal a thousand times, and if you fail a thousand times, make the attempt once more.
  • Every failure is a step to success. Every detection of what is false directs us towards what is true: every trial exhausts some tempting form of error. Not only so; but scarcely any attempt is entirely a failure; scarcely any theory, the result of steady thought, is altogether false; no tempting form of Error is without some latent charm derived from Truth.
    • William Whewell, Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy in England, Lecture 7 (1852).
  • Ambition is the last refuge of the failure.
    • Oscar Wilde, Phrases and Philosophies for the use of the Young (1894).
  • Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.
    • Earl Wilson, as quoted in 0 to Bitch in 10 Seconds Or Less : Quips and Comebacks for Quick-Witted Women (2005) by Amy Hatch, p. 268.
  • Failure is an event, not a person. Yesterday ended last night.
  • Stop thinking of failing.
    • Ben Carson, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (p. 75)
  • It's a failure only if you don't get anything out of it, Thomas Edison said he knew 999 ways that a light bulb did not work; yet we have lights today.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 252-53.
  • [Oxford] Home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs and unpopular names and impossible loyalties.
  • Now a' is done that men can do,
    And a' is done in vain.
  • He that is down can fall no lower.
    • Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part I (1663-64), Canto III, line 878.
  • Camelus desiderans cornua etiam aures perdidit.
    • The camel set out to get him horns and was shorn of his ears.
    • Erasmus, Adagia. Chil, III. Cent. V. 8. heading. Greek proverb from Apostolius, IX. 59 b, VIII. 43. English a free translation of the same from the rendering of the Proverb applied to Baalam by the Rabbis of the Talmud. Sanhedrin. 106 a.
  • He ploughs in sand, and sows against the wind,
    That hopes for constant love of woman kind.
  • Failed the bright promise of your early day?
  • Greatly begin! Though thou have time
    But for a line, be that sublime—
    Not failure, but low aim is crime.
  • You may boldly say, you did not plough
    Or trust the barren and ungrateful sands
    With the fruitful grain of your religious counsels.
    • Philip Massinger, The Renegado. Arenas arantes. Plough the sands. Phrase used by Mr. Asquith, Nov. 21, 1894, at Birmingham. Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part III, Section 2. Mem. 1. Subs. 2.
  • "All honor to him who shall win the prize,"
    The world has cried for a thousand years;
    But to him who tries and fails and dies,
    I give great honor and glory and tears.
  • If this fail,
    The pillar'd firmament is rottenness,
    And earth's base built on stubble.
  • Nam quamvis prope to, quamvis temone sub uno
    Vertentem sese, frustra sectabere cantum
    Cum rota posterior curras et in axe secundo.
    • Why, like the hindmost chariot wheels, art curst
      Still to be near but ne'er to reach the first.
    • Persius, Satires, V. 71. Dryden's translation. English, one of the mottoes of the Spectator, Tatler, Guardian.
  • Quod si deficiant vires, audacia certe
    Laus erit: in magnis et voluisse sat est.
    • Although strength should fail, the effort will deserve praise. In great enterprises the attempt is enough.
    • Sextus Propertius, Elegiæ, II. 10. 5.
  • Allow me to offer my congratulations on the truly admirable skill you have shown in keeping clear of the mark. Not to have hit once in so many trials, argues the most splendid talents for missing.
    • Thomas De Quincey, Works, Volume XIV, p. 161. Ed. 1863, quoting the Emperor Galerius to a soldier who missed the target many times in succession.
  • [Il] battoit les buissons sans prendre les ozillons.
  • How are the mighty fallen!
    • II Samuel. I. 25.
  • Here's to the men who lose!
    What though their work be e'er so nobly plann'd
    And watched with zealous care;
    No glorious halo crowns their efforts grand—
    Contempt is Failure's share!
  • And each forgets, as he strips and runs
    With a brilliant, fitful pace,
    It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
    Who win in the lifelong race.
    And each forgets that his youth has fled,
    Forgets that his prime is past,
    Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
    In the glare of the truth at last.
  • Not all who seem to fail have failed indeed,
    Not all who fail have therefor worked in vain.
    There is no failure for the good and brave.
  • For he that believeth, bearing in hand,
    Plougheth in the water, and soweth in the sand.

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