Resiliency needed to survive failure

| March 2, 2018 | 0 Comments


Chaplain (Maj.) Brian Koyn
Integrated Religious Support Office

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Can you imagine inventing a product that would make you famous, wealthy and ultimately end up in nearly every home in America? What if someone else had the same idea and beat you to the patent office by a mere two hours? It would be devastating right? One hundred and seventy-six years ago, this week, that is exactly what happened to Elisha Gray when Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for the first telephone.

Both men had been working feverishly to design a device that would allow the transmission of voice on wires over long distances. And so were about a dozen other men, some of whom would claim over the years that they invented the device first. Bell’s lawyer delivered his application to the U.S. Patent Office only two hours before Gray’s lawyer — forever cementing the name of Alexander Graham Bell in history.

Rebounding from failure
For many people, this loss would be completely devastating. They would be tempted to give up on their dreams in frustration. But Elisha Gray was an inventor, and one thing that all inventors do is fail. Thomas Edison famously spoke of his failed attempts to invent a light bulb as just the first 1,000 steps in the process.

So how do you deal with failure? There is a proverb in the Old Testament that says, “Though the righteous man falls seven times, he will rise again.” Like inventing, life involves many failures, false starts and misdirections. Success is too often found in how we recover from setbacks much more than the lack of mistakes. Alexander Graham Bell himself stated the oft misquoted line, “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

After his setback, Elisha Gray did not sit around and dwell on what could have been if only his lawyer skipped breakfast and proceeded directly to the patent office. Instead, he continued on to invent a fax machine, a primitive closed circuit television long before television, and an underwater signaling device for ships all before his death in 1901.

So today, as you look at the mistakes and setbacks in your life, think about what you can learn from them while focusing your attention and energy on the opportunities that still remain.

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Category: Standing Columns

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