It’s a little-known fact that Microsoft founders Bill Gates’ and Paul Allen’s first “big idea” was to build a business around collecting traffic data for engineers. The company was called Traf-O-Data—no joke—and one can only imagine Gates rallying around the dream of “a light post on every corner, of every street, processing traffic everywhere.”
But, the company failed.
And, Gates and Allen are doubtlessly thankful for the lessons learned from that big failure, as a few years later a little corporation named Microsoft was born. Today, Microsoft is the largest software company in the world. And, Gates’ vision of “a computer on every desktop, in every home, running Microsoft software,” has largely been realized—making him the second richest man in the world since 2010, with a net worth of $53 billion.
This story is not uncommon. In fact, the greatest success stories are, when you take the time to look, built on a series of failures.
Marilyn Monroe was dropped by Fox one year into her contract for being “unattractive” and “a bad actress.” In 1999, she was ranked the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute, and today, is one of the most well-known pop culture icons ever.
Albert Einstein did not start speaking until relatively late in his childhood, and then was thought to be “dull” for repeating sentences to himself. Teachers found him “moderately talented,” and he flunked the entrance exam at Zurich Polytechnic. Einstein went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921, and has changed the face of modern physics.
Gary Keller knows something about failing your way to success. It has been his life journey. “People tend to think the world is conspiring against you when you fail.” His AHA: “People don’t realize you are born to fail and born to get up. It is the goal of every spiritual being to try to live as big a life as possible; to love as much as possible; to give as much as possible, and fail as often as possible.”
When you fail, you learn. Therefore, failure often plants the seeds of growth.
So, think big! Get comfortable with the idea that failure is intrinsic to success. Incremental thinking seems like a safe way to avoid failure, but it’s also the quickest way to veer left of success. The truth is, the more success you seek, the more failure you’ll achieve.
Stop taking baby steps. Or, as Gary says, "I don't think A to B. Blow up the alphabet and start living for Z.”