596px-Cockings_parachuteWhat is the difference between success and failure? Your answer may differ from mine because you have to start with a definition of what is success and what is failure. To some, success requires that you meet whatever was your goal, but to others, the mere attempt is success. As I said, your answer depends on your definition.

So let’s look at some historical examples:

In 1797 on October 22, Andre Jacques Garnerin did a totally stupid act of cutting himself loose from a perfectly good hot air balloon and, trusting to the very first parachute, returned to terra firma uninjured. Of course, once he did it anyone could do it and it was a perfectly logical thrill ride. Of course, it didn’t occur to airplane pilots in World War One to use parachutes, so they must not have received Andre’s memo. Andre was also the first to take a woman up in a hot air balloon, but not before he had to overcome an injunction from the police who were afraid that the woman’s delicate organs would not safe from ascending in the hot air balloon. She returned from the flight with no apparent harm done – physically or morally – well, they were in close quarters up there.

I think that anyone would call Andre Jacques Garnerin a success.

On another October 22 in 1964, a band, then called “High Numbers” auditioned for the record label EMI – and were turned down. The band later was known as The Who – easily one of the most successful – musically and commercially – bands of the modern rock era, having lasted 50 years.

But what about that EMI executive that decided that the High Numbers just didn’t have what it takes to be successful? Someone may know, but I couldn’t find out what happened to him. I doubt that anything happened to him – after all, how many companies review the past to see what dumb mistakes were made?

Which reminds me of a story I heard about J. K. Rowling. Her first Harry Potter book was turned down by 12 publishing houses. Years later, she was at a dinner party with an executive of one of those publishing houses, who stated that his publishing house would have published her book. She told him that they had refused her book. I can only imagine how good that must have felt.

Finally, in 1981, the US national debt topped $1 billion for the first time.

To be continued….

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.