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July 10, 2018

Learning to Fall --- Guest Post by Erik Slader, Author of the Epic Fails Series

Posted by Catherine B

Have you ever messed up? As in, really badly? Well, the good news is that everyone fails at something at some point in their lives. Author Erik Slader, with co-author Ben Thompson, decided to document some of the greatest epic fails in history in their new series, aptly named the Epic Fails series, which kicks off with THE WRIGHT BROTHERS: Nose-Diving into History and THE RACE TO SPACE: Countdown to Liftoff. In this blog post, Slader discusses some of these grand failures, and the importance of persevering in the face of failure to then, hopefully, achieve some kind of success.

If at first you don’t succeed…You’re not the only one.  In fact, you’re in pretty good company.

Have you ever made a mistake?

Don’t worry, we all have. In fact, everyone you have ever met --- family members, friends, teachers --- and everyone you will ever read about or hear about has at some point in their life made a mistake (probably several!). Here’s the thing: that’s ok. We’re all human after all and no one’s perfect.

But here’s what counts --- did you learn something from that mistake?

For example: If you randomly walk into a pole because you weren’t watching where you were going, next time you’ll probably pay less attention to the tablet in your hands and more to the pole in front of your face. If you didn’t learn from that mistake, you’ll likely give yourself a concussion.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

History is full of great examples of people who failed, sometimes on an epic scale. I think it’s important to consider what we can take away from these stories. Some of these are cautionary tales that we can learn from, like how the Titanic didn’t have enough lifeboats, or how World War 3 was narrowly avoided during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There’s also dozens of examples of people who failed to accomplish what they set out to do, yet still managed to change the world through their errors. Like Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin, or how Columbus became the first European (besides the Vikings) to discover North America while looking for a route to China.

But some of the most important takeaways from many of these historic failures are the ones who failed, but didn’t let that stop them from reaching their goal.

When the Wright Brothers set out to create the world’s first airplane, they had numerous missteps and setbacks. Their prototypes kept crashing and breaking, but they kept at it. Each time, improving on their model and figuring out what did and didn’t work. Eventually, after lots of hard work, perseverance and trial and error (sometimes more error than trial), they managed to pull together and create the first self-powered airplane.

The lesson here is to not be afraid of failure, because at some point you will fail at something, but the important thing is what you do with that failure. Life’s not always about winning or being right all the time --- it’s about learning from your mistakes and not giving up. It’s about perseverance. Like Winston Churchill said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

That’s why I wanted to write this series. The “Epic Fails” books delve into stories about some of history’s most inspiring figures, and how they turned their failures into a launching pad for success! From the Wright Brothers to the Space Race and beyond.

We all have to learn to fall before we can fly.

Erik Slader is the creator of “Epik Fails of History” a blog (and podcast) about the most epic fails…of history. The first two books in the Epic Fails series, co-written with Ben Thompson, hit shelves on July 10.