The Art of Failing

The story is well-known and so are Thomas Edison’s words: “I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

Those words, spoken or not, highlight the essence of “failing”. I use that word with some sense of disdain; for I am a firm believer in its non-existence – at least for me. Definition: Fail: “To be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal”. Thomas Edison would eventually discover a method, and the correct materials, to construct a long-life light bulb. He achieved his goal and so I see no failure in his method.

Too many times there are those who speak prematurely. A goal is the intended completion of a process set out at a previous time. This usually includes a “bar” or standard that will be met and will signify the meeting of that goal. The goal is at the end of a process – a journey. How, then, can someone label the process a “failure” if it is still in motion? The answer is that they cannot. The only person who has the ability to convert a process into a failure is the one who set the goal. How refreshing it is, then, to know that the only way that one can fail is if they choose to stop progressing towards their goal.

I have encountered this extensively in both my academic and professional careers. I have failed extensively in both, but I found that what is more important is not how much a person “fails” but rather how much that person sees things through – how they pick themselves up and keep moving. Out of my original group of post-secondary friends only a third ended up graduating from the Faculty of Engineering. I was one of them. I can confidently say that I was not the most naturally gifted of the group, but I was driven. I saw my goal and I wanted to meet it – be it hell or high water.

This quality is also prevalent in entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs have a higher threshold for risk. This means that they take chances. They may be calculated, but they are still risks. Sometimes those chances do not work in the favour of the risk-taker. Some may call these occasions a “failure”, but what an entrepreneur will tell you is that it was a learning experience. A life lesson. One way to not do it. Just one bulb in Edison’s 10,000.

When I find out that a “bulb design” didn’t work I don’t whine about all of the hard work it took to make it. I move on. I start designing the next bulb based on the lessons learned previously. This is a process, and I haven’t met my goal yet. But I will.




Photography is to the 21st Century as Painting is to the 17th Century

… Or so says Jonathan Jones of The Guardian – and I agree with him.

The 17th Century saw such iconic artists as Michelangelo and Rembrandt. They were masters of their craft to be certain, but they were not the only painters of their time. For every master there must be countless apprentices in the craft. This is how I see the craft of photography in the 21st Century.

Ah yes, the stereotypical college student gets their first camera and begins to capture anything and everything. No object is safe from their snaps, clicks, and instagrams. Some may pass as acceptable, and some may be heralded as proof in the imminent coming of the antichrist.

But with such exposure and diffusion of the craft it is no stretch of the imagination to suggest that, from the pile of mediocrity, a master will arise. Who are we, then, to judge these people when their presence signifies the full maturity of the craft?

General Science

Asteroid-Mining Company Launch Revitalizes Space Hopes

In the wake of the decommissioning of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program, and also it’s success with the Mars rover “Curiosity”, a new company has cast it’s lot into the space game. This company, Deep Space Industries Inc, is focusing on near-Earth asteroid mining. They plan to have prospect ships working by the year 2015.

This is on the heels of the company Planetary Resources’ unveiling last April with a similar goal.

This is quite an interesting development as space mining companies, backed by some wealthy investors, may become the new “space race”. There is a lot of money to be made if you can figure out how to get the resources back to Earth. I suspect some may be waiting and watching these two companies, and their success may trigger more to follow suit.