Failing Into Success

The first computers called ENIAC at The University of Pennsylvania in the 1940's  - Ready, Set, Fail

Jack Slater at U of P - possibly in front of Furness Hall
May 1947
As a student at The University of Pennsylvania in the 1940’s, my dad Jack Slater got to work around one of the world’s first computers. I recall him telling stories about this amazing machine taking up rooms of space with tubes and wires and all sorts of circuitry.  Dad told me that the phrase, "debugging software or getting the bugs out" was literally related to the insects that would get into these vacuum tubes on this massive computer at Penn. It is hard not to marvel at what type of brilliance it took in that time period to be thinking about how machines could do sophisticated calculations instead of people with pencils.

Saturday I bought my wife an iPhone for an advanced mother’s day present. I’m not big on waiting until the last minute and I knew I had a lot of training to do since she was using a real old school cell phone.

The difference between this iPhone and the image in the photo from the Univac room is obviously dramatic. But looking at this old photo reminds me how difficult real innovation is and to remind what it is like to  first in creating something no one has seen before. 

Imagine the tenacity of the people who worked on creating that computer and trying to convince others to spend money on its development. John Presper Eckert & John W. Mauchly developed this first UNIVAC Computer that had 19,000 vacuum tubes.
Replacing a bad tube meant checking 19,000 options
What does it take to embrace change and see possibility when others see fear?

PERSISTENCE: More than intellect, insight and information,it takes persistence. You have to get up every day and fail and fail and fail until one day something goes right.  Then you have to continue failing until the next thing goes right.

When the light finally comes on
Thomas Edison - A failure until he succeeded
Not many people can handle that much negativity and the kinds of road blocks or the frustration of things not working out. It is said that Edison failed 3,000 times in not making a light bulb but on the 3,001 attempt, it worked. 

Failure after failure after failure. Strange how today we would diagnosis him as obsessive and give him some psychotropic meds. But it is a common thread I see in business, that true innovation requires an unshakable belief in something no one else believes in or understands. It is almost as if a portal to the future opened up to these inventors, and they had a brief glimpse at the future which was enough to keep them motivated. 

Marketing Failures: My Greatest Teachers
I like to think about how much more I have learned about marketing from failures versus successes. My experience with several new product and brand launches have crashed to earth like a North Korean missile. But I kept learning things not to do the next time in attempt to keep climbing up the ladder of success. 

It is as if the failures of the past light the way toward the successful marketing program of tomorrow. 

I recently developed a marketing program that others  didn't think made a lot of sense or was worth the effort. I couldn't let go of the idea which I knew could be powerful and effective. Through persistence and my own belief in the idea, I kept on pushing to execute the plans. Building on past experiences and this nagging idea that I was right, I never let go of the idea. As we have started to achieve some of the outlined objectives, it was very satisfying to be acknowledged for my own persistence and belief in the true power of my ideas. But the real reward will be in the next marketing project as I climb one more step in the ladder of success. 

Note to self: When Fanny is being hard-headed and a pain the butt, this is the quality you are celebrating. 

So if you want to succeed, keep failing. 

Turn on a  light to celebrate the sheer joy of never giving up. Persistence is the most important ingredient in success whether it involves marketing, family or business innovation. And if at first you don't succeed, try another 3,000 times until you do. 

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