Three Quotes From Henry Ford About Overcoming Failure

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Henry Ford had a lot of spunk. His famous quote, “Sir, you can have a Ford in any color you want, as long as it is black” is a great little encapsulation of his attitude towards business and life. Perhaps my favorite thing about him is that he embraced failure, but rejected the kind of negative attitudes that largely accompany failure.

When it comes to investing, I am not particularly interested in owning the kinds of companies that will be growing the fastest in good times. Rather, I am interested in owning the kinds of companies that will still be churning out profits without much of a hitch in an environment similar to The Great Recession economy of 2008-2009.

That kind of attitude is something I picked up from my dad when I was little. Anytime we would watch the postgame conference of the athletes after a sporting event, my dad would point out the athletes that handled defeat the most gracefully and often hold them up as inspirational figures. After all, anyone can look good after winning a national championship, but it takes a special kind of person to look good after losing a national championship.

That is the kind of attitude that flowed through Henry Ford’s life philosophy. It was not handling success that dominated his thoughts, but rather, crafting paths that responded well to failure.  When speaking of failure, Ford said things like:

1. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

2. The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

3. What is life, but attempting to triumph after failure, anyway?

What I like about Ford is that he regards failure as part of the full cycle of life. A lot of people treat failure and disappointment as something to shoo away, quickly forget, and never speak of again. Ford treated it as an important learning opportunity. Most importantly, he was cavaliar about screwing up. He didn’t have a “Woe is me! The world is ending!” kind of attitude when things went wrong. Rather, his point of view was basically, “Okay, that didn’t work, what next?” I find Ford’s philosophizing about failure refreshing.