Success and Failure

J. Paul Getty, the fabulously wealthy founder of Getty Oil, shared his three secrets for success: “Rise early, work late, strike oil.” Too many of us can only do the first two.

Irving Berlin, the songwriter, lamented: “The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success.” “Success is never final,” as Winston Churchill observed.

Success, in fact, is the major cause of failure. Five years of success will ruin any business. Lew Platt, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, confessed: “The single biggest problem in business is staying with your previously successful business model ... one year too long.”

The success of a company depends ultimately on the success of its customers and partners. But a company should not try to please everyone. That would be a sure way to fail.

Failure shouldn’t be viewed as always bad. Henry Ford said: “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” He added that he wouldn’t hire anyone who has never failed. Thomas Huxley, the English biologist, concurred: “There is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life.”

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