Learning to Love the Process: How Inventors Cope with Failure and Rejection

November 22, 2017

Learning to Love the Process: How Inventors Cope with Failure and Rejection

Often times, the greatest victories come at a cost. They’re difficult. You’ll experience failure. It won’t be easy, but that’s what makes it so worthwhile when you finally succeed.

It’s the same for inventors. No incredible invention happens without any difficulties. You will fail; it’s guaranteed, but that doesn’t mean you won’t eventually succeed. The key is to dig down deep and fight for it, even when that feels impossible.

But how do you do that?

Remember that you are not alone.

Some of the greatest inventors in history are marked by their failure.

For example, take Thomas Edison. It purportedly took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype for the light bulb. When asked by a reporter about his many failures, he responded saying, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Failure is in the eye of the beholder.

great inventors Thomas Edison

(image source: ProProfs)

To Edison, it wasn’t a failure to take a misstep on his way to the light bulb because, with each failure, he learned something that helped him get closer to his goal. And, truthfully, failures are often our greatest teachers.

That’s one reason why you shouldn’t be afraid of failure as an inventor. Every failure is just another step in the process. That was a lesson that Sir James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson vacuum had to learn early on. 

Sir James first came up with his idea for a new floor cleaner in 1974, and it wasn’t easy or simple. According to BBC, creating the Dyson vacuum was a long, slow process that took no less than 5,127 tweaks and modifications over a five year period: 1979 – 1984.

During this time, life was a struggle.

To keep his family afloat, Dyson had to rely on his wife’s income. Then, even after he finally got the Dyson vacuum right, British retailers rejected his idea. At that point, Sir James could have given up, but instead, he tried selling his vacuum in Japan where it became an instant hit. Still, it took him until 1993 to finally realize his dream of setting up a research facility and factory in England.

Sir James’ experience isn’t unique. Every inventor has faced similar struggles during the process.

So, how do you make sure that you end up like Sir James Dyson or Thomas Edison instead of an unknown with nothing to his or her name?

Fail Early and Fail Fast 

Don’t spend so much time avoiding failure that you’re 90% of the way to the end of the line before you really start looking into whether or not your invention could be a success.

You need to be critical of your invention as early in the process as possible.

Scrutinize your idea from the very beginning.

Start a patent search on uspto.gov to ensure that no one else has patented your idea yet. Check the market early. Get to know what you have as soon as possible and see if anyone is interested.

The quicker you can figure out how to work out the kinks the better off you’ll be.

Use Your Failures To Learn About Your Customers

You never want to invent something that nobody wants to buy.

The good news is that you can use your failures as an inventor to validate your assumption about what customers will buy.

If a company, investor, or store rejects your invention, don’t just fall apart. Figure out why they don’t want it and discover, instead, what they do want. Use every rejection as a learning opportunity to figure out what someone will pay money for.

Don’t Be Afraid to Iterate

No invention is going to be perfect from the very first prototype.

Don’t be so focused on your original idea that you’re not open to a slightly different model of your idea. 

Every iteration of your product can help you figure out what works best. Keep trying out new prototypes and options until you hit on the version that will succeed.

Use Rejection as a Stepping Stone

JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, is famous for being turned down by countless publishers before she hit it big. In a tweet, she wrote, “I wasn’t going to give up until every single publisher turned me down, but I often feared that would happen.” 

The good news is that it didn’t, and she was able to use each rejection as the push she needed to try one more time. If you want it, go for it.

At Quirky, we believe every invention has its place, and we can’t wait to see where your idea will take you. Don’t give up. Being an inventor is a constantly evolving process that we know you can learn to love.





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