“We are never going to be able to do this. We need to cut our losses and move on.” How many times have you heard that in a meeting? Or on the other hand, some will argue, “We know we’re over budget and past deadline. But, we just need a little time and a little more resources/money then we’ll be done, and it will all be worth it.”  I have been in such meetings and had to make the decision. The easiest decision is to cut the funding and end the project. The risk is gone, costs are controlled and everyone is happy except those on the project, but we can always move them to another project or let them go.

There is no question that ending a project is often the safe approach and sometimes it is necessary, but the next time that you are in this situation and are considering ending a project, consider this. One of the reasons Edison was able to invent the light bulb is because he kept trying when other people gave up. His attitude about failure kept him going. Edison said, “I never quit until I get what I’m after. Negative results are just what I’m after. They are just as valuable to me as positive results.” This attitude made him willing to try at least 10,000 attempts before he found success. This does not mean that on some projects he did not stop after a certain period of time, but his attitude was that every “failure” was a learning experience.

Also, consider the innovator James Dyson. He is the inventor of the Dyson bagless vacuum. It took him nearly four years and over 5,000 attempts to get his product where he wanted it to be, a significantly superior vacuum than what was on the market. At the time, none of the other vacuum companies were interested in his product.  Vacuum bags were a half-billion dollar market. Who wanted a new product that eliminated that revenue stream? So, Dyson took the risk himself and started his own company. He did not just create a new product, he revolutionized an industry. Take a trip down the vacuum aisle at your local store and see how many vacuum cleaners still have bags. Dyson reinvented the vacuum. His attitude on failure was very similar to Edison’s. Dyson stated, “In fact, it took me 4.5 years, and I built 5,127 prototypes until I got it right. That sounds tedious. In fact it was absolutely fascinating. I mean each failure, the 5,126 failures taught me so much. Successes teach you nothing. Failures teach you everything. Making mistakes is the most important thing you can do.”

So, the next time you are thinking about giving up or ending a project, remember Edison and Dyson. Be careful what you do, the only thing separating you from success may be 5,000 or 10,000 learning-filled attempts.  Success may be right around the corner.

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