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Sermon Illustrations: Failure


Once, when Mark Twain was asked the difference between a mistake and a blunder, he replied, "If you walk into a restaurant and walk out with someone's silk umbrella and leave your own cotton one, that is a mistake. But if you pick up someone's cotton umbrella instead of your own silk one, that is a blunder."

Mr Edison worked endlessly on a problem, using the method of elimination. If a person asked him whether he were discouraged because so many attempts proved unavailing, he would say, "No, I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." Mrs Thomas A. Edison

The 15 year old youngster stood sheepishly before the headmaster of a Munich school who was reading the riot act to him. The boy was soundly censured for lack of interest in his studies and was asked to leave school. "Your presence in the class destroys the respect of the students," the headmaster said. The boy took an examination to enter the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich but failed to pass. He entered another school, finished his training, and then applied for an assistantship at the Polytechnic. Again he was rejected. He finally secured a position as a tutor for boys in a boarding house, but soon was fired. Finally, he managed to obtain a job in the patent office in Bonn. He was Albert Einstein. Joseph Hutnyan

Jack Dempsey, former world heavyweight boxing champion said, "A champion is one who gets up when he can't."

At 23 (1832), Abraham Lincoln was partner in a small store. Because of the duplicity of his partner, the business ended in bankruptcy, with a sheriff's sign on the door. In 1832 he ran for the legislature on to fail in the election. In 1833, he failed in business again. His partner was drunk most of the time. In the midst of liquidation his partner died and Lincoln assumed responsibility for all the debt. He was 39 when the last of his debt was paid. Meanwhile, he took a job as a surveyor, only to have his creditors levy on his instruments and horse without which he could not continue. In 1834, Lincoln was elected to the legislature, but within a few months his sweetheart died. His biographers say, "His heart followed her to the grave." The next year he had a nervous breakdown and lived on the verge of insanity. His suicidal tendencies were so great he never even dared to carry a pocket knife. He was taken 300 miles away to the home of his parents to recuperate. Again he tried to rebuild his life. He ran for Speaker of the State House and lost. In 1843, he ran for nomination for congress and was resoundingly defeated. In 1846 he was finally elected to Congress, but after a two year term his constituents refused to re-elect him. He tried to earn a living as a land officer and was rejected for that office in 1849. He ran for the Senate in 1854 and when the state nominating convention was split along party lines, he stepped aside for another candidate. He was defeated for nomination as vice president in the convention of 1856. He tried for the Senate again in 1858. He was overwhelmingly defeated. Finally in 1860 he was elected President of the U.S. Robert J. Lamont

Thomas Edison stated that he probably had more failures than anyone else ever did, but it's interesting that we remember him as a great success. He patented 1,093 inventions in his lifetime, which doesn't sound like a failure. But the truth is that he failed frequently. What made him stand out was the way he saw his failures. He once said, "Now we know a thousand things that won't work. So we are that much closer to finding one that will."

My Collection of Jokes, Quotes & Anecdotes

If you put a wall-eyed pike in an aquarium with some minnows, it won't be long before you have no minnows. But if you separate the pike and the minnows with a sheet of glass, the pike will charge them and bounce off the glass. Gradually, over a period of time, the pike learns its lesson. It charges more slowly and less often, till it finally decides that the minnows are untouchable. If you then remove the glass, the pike will starve to death even though it has plenty of food swimming around it. It has finally given up.

Charlie Chaplin once came third in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike competition.

Who am I? For 30 years I experienced more rejection personally and musically than any other master in written history. For me, life was an uninterrupted series of defeats, forcing me to move constantly from town to town. Because I didn't complete my schooling, I was barely accepted into University. My first opera was rejected at Leipzig. My second opera was a disaster, being withdrawn after only one performance. I was hired as a conductor in Königsberg, and the company immediately went out of business. I found another conducting job in Riga, but was soon fired and had to elude frontier guards to escape my creditors. In Paris, I could not break into the inner circle, and so lived in a colony of poor German artists. I staved off starvation by means of musical journalism and hackwork. My new opera company failed and I spent time in debtor's prison. Finally, I had a "hit" opera in Germany, but my creditors heard of it and demanded huge sums of money that I was still unable to pay. By this time, my marriage was in ruins, debts continued to mount, and I frequently fell ill, needing expensive medical treatments. My next few operas failed, one of them, (Tristan and Isolde), being shelved as being unplayable after 77 rehearsals. A warrant was issued for my arrest due to my foolish involvement in a political uprising, so I had to flee Germany again. My first wife and I made each other miserable for three decades. Yet throughout all this I continued to produce extraordinary works, both in music and literature, until my death at age 69. My name is Richard Wagner.

Better try to do something, And fail in the deed, Than try to do nothing, And always succeed. The Bible Friend.

Tom Watson, Sr. was the founder of IBM as well as its leader for over 40 years. He believed absolutely in the principle that failures are learning experiences. Once, a promising junior executive got involved in a risky enterprise and lost over $10 million of company money. Watson called the executive into his office. Fearing the worst, the man asked anxiously, "I guess you want my resignation?" Watson was astounded. "You can't be serious," he replied. "We've just spent $10 million educating you!"


There is no failure except in no longer trying. Elbert Hubbard

I've missed more than 9000 shots. I've lost almost 300 games. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. Michael Jordan

Failure isn't fatal or final, but must be faced to be a key to the future. Graham Bonar

Defeat isn't bitter if you don't swallow it.

The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.

Experience: the name men give to their mistakes. Oscar Wilde

You can only be a failure by your own consent. Peter Daniels

The only difference between a rut and a grave is its depth.

Big men and big personalities make mistakes and admit them. It is the little man who is afraid to admit he has been wrong. Maxwell Maltz

No man ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes. Gladstone

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 wo never made a mistake, never made a discovery. Samuel Smiles

The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. Lloyd Jones

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Please note that all Scripture quotations, unless otherwise stated, are taken from the New King James Version ®.
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