You Never Fail Until You Stop Trying

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.

Continue reading You Never Fail Until You Stop Trying

Success Is Never Final and Failure Never Fatal. It’s Courage That Counts

Winston Churchill? Copywriter for Budweiser Beer? George F. Tilton? Sam Rayburn? Joe Paterno? John Wooden? Mike Ditka? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Here are two versions of stirring words that are often attributed to the well-known statesman Winston Churchill:

Success is never final and failure never fatal. It’s courage that counts.

Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.

I have never seen a source for this saying, and I suspect Churchill never said it. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Churchill made this remark. The saying is listed in the comprehensive quotation collection “Churchill by Himself” in a special appendix called “Red Herrings: False Attributions”. 1

Richard Langworth, the editor of “Churchill by Himself”, has a website with a webpage indicating that the saying above has been misattributed. Commenting more generally about expressions that are being improperly ascribed to Churchill he stated: 2

These quotations are all over the Internet, none of them attributed, and just seem to multiply and get passed on, like the common cold.

QI hypothesizes that the saying above evolved from simpler partial statements during a multi-year process. A version closely matching the full expression appeared in the 1930s in an advertising campaign for Budweiser beer, a product of the Anheuser-Busch company. Based on current evidence, a copywriter for Budweiser probably synthesized the saying. Details are given further below.

Here are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Success Is Never Final and Failure Never Fatal. It’s Courage That Counts

Notes:

  1. 2008, Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations, Edited by Richard Langworth, Appendix I: Red Herrings: False Attributions, Quote Page 579, PublicAffairs, New York. (Google Books Preview)
  2. Website: Richard M. Langworth, Article title: More “Quotations” Churchill Never Said, Article author: Richard M. Langworth, Date on website: June 19, 2009, Website description: “Richard M. Langworth: Churchill historian, automotive and travel writer”. (Accessed richardlangworth.com on September 3, 2013) link