Sharing of common sense and wisdom…

FAIL To Succeed

Extracts & Commentary

Sent in by:  Adolf Peter

29 Aug 2011   MON

Author Tim Harford’s new book “Why Success Always Starts with  Failure – Adapt” deals with failure and in it, he does a series of case studies, taking sharp look at how failure can play an integral role in finding solutions for success.

Harford uses this analogy: 

“If you look at medical funding in the US, the majority comes through the National Institutes of Health. It’s taxpayer funded and it’s scared to fail.  Their results are excellent.  Almost every project is a success.  BUT the successes are modest, there aren’t so many huge successes.  Then there’s the Howard Huges Medical Institute – it’s much more ambitious in risk-taking and will back scientists even when the chance of failure is high.  That’s explicit in their mission statement, by the way – ‘to back scientists when the chance of failure is high’. 

“It depends on your definition of success.  If it’s avoiding failure, then the Howard Huges institute is not very successful because they have many failures.  But if your definition of success is a few incredible results, Nobel Prize winners, research papers that really define new disciplines within a field – then the Howard Huges Medical Institute is hugely successful.”

“In the world at large you need both sorts…”


I would think that a more critical definition on this matter is rather, based upon How Much Resources one (or an institution) can afford to put into a project, as well as What’s the most important task(s) that requires immediate solution.  Funding of any project per se, it is to seek clarity upon which What’s important can be defined. 

People who seek successful life (or meaningful life) therefore need to identify their peaks before they start climbing.  Most will not have the luxury of huge supply of resources to do many things they wish for.



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