He held more than 300 U.S. patents.
He is best known for the all-electric starting ignition and lighting system that replaced crank ignitions for automobiles.
Jerome Beatty once wrote of him:
“Charles F. Kettering was never afraid of failure. He always said the only time you must not fail is the last time you try.”
This willingness to take a chance, to risk failure, is a quality we seem to be losing today. We forfeit the excitement and thrill of living because of our fear of failure.
It begins, I think, when we start to school. We are made to feel that to flunk anything is disaster. By the time we get out into the world we are so afraid of failure we won’t try anything that involves risk.
How do we learn to deal with this? How do we learn to face failure unafraid?
First, we must realize that failure is a part of life. Not every athlete that enters a race wins. Although they do their best, most of the runners lose. We should always strive to succeed, but failure is a part of life and should be expected.
Second, failure can serve as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. After 700 failing experiments, a young assistant of Thomas A. Edison said to him, “All of our time has been wasted; we have accomplished nothing!”
Edison replied, “Not at all. We now know 700 things that won’t work.”
It is said that on the next attempt he hit upon the principle that made possible the incandescent light bulb.
Finally, let us remember that there is no ultimate failure for the Christian who trusts God. Our Master showed us that. Where could one find a more apparent failure than the Christ on that Black Friday as he hung suspended between heaven and earth, dying on a cross between two thieves?
Today, we know that what seemed defeat was the greatest victory our world has ever known. It can be so for you and me. Expect failure; it is part of life. Use failure as a stepping-stone to success.
Above all, keep your eyes upon Christ. He will lead you through the shadows of failure today and tomorrow and out into the sunlight of victory on the third day. Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.