Albert Einstein? Florence Griffith Joyner? Thomas Edison? Louise Chandler Moulton? Mike Ditka? Elmer Burritt Bryan? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The following motivational remark has been attributed to the famous scientist Albert Einstein:
You never fail until you stop trying.
This saying has also been credited to the Olympic-medal-winning athlete Florence Griffith Joyner and the well-known inventor Thomas Edison. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Albert Einstein wrote or spoke this statement. It is not listed in the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. Einstein died in 1955, and he received credit for the remark many years afterward in 2012.
This adage is difficult to trace because it is a member of a large and ever evolving family of sayings. QI believes that the creator should be considered anonymous. Here is a sampling of pertinent sayings with dates:
1890 Jun: No man can be wholly defeated unless he defeat himself
1904 Feb 6: Human beings never fail until they fail to try
1910 Jun 1: You have never been defeated until you give up
1912 May 30: You are never defeated until you lose faith in yourself
1918 May 2: You are not defeated unless you admit defeat
1921 Apr 28: You’re never defeated until you surrender
1922 Jul 15: You are never defeated unless you admit it to yourself
1930 Jun 28: No absolute failure until you stop trying to succeed
1930 Dec 4: You are never defeated unless you think you are
1931 Aug 14: You are never defeated unless you defeat yourself
1937 Nov 27: You are never defeated until you stop trying
1946 Oct 11: You’re never defeated unless you admit it to yourself
1951 Dec 13: You are never a failure until you stop trying
1959 Dec 22: You never lose until you stop trying
1967 Dec 7: You never fail until you stop trying
Below are selected citations in chronological order.