Failure Is Only the Opportunity More Intelligently To Begin Again

Henry Ford? Samuel Crowther? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The failure of a project is often disheartening, but some self-help and inspirational texts highlight a quotation that presents a positive interpretation to the setback:

Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.

This statement has been attributed to the assembly-line innovator and industrial titan Henry Ford, but I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please examine this saying?

Quote Investigator: In 1922 Henry Ford in collaboration with Samuel Crowther released an autobiographical volume titled “My Life and Work”. In the introductory section Ford outlined four principles for his organization, and the saying appeared in the discussion of the first principle; however, the phrasing was different and somewhat clumsier. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

The institution that we have erected is performing a service. That is the only reason I have for talking about it. The principles of that service are these:

1. An absence of fear of the future and of veneration for the past. One who fears the future, who fears failure, limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again. There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail. What is past is useful only as it suggests ways and means for progress.

The principles were important to Ford, and he repeated them in the concluding section of the book. 2

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Failure Is Only the Opportunity More Intelligently To Begin Again

Notes:

  1. 1922 Copyright, My Life and Work by Henry Ford in collaboration with Samuel Crowther, Section: Introduction, Quote Page 19 and 20, Garden City Publishing Company, Garden City, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1922 Copyright, My Life and Work by Henry Ford in collaboration with Samuel Crowther, Section: Introduction, Quote Page 273, Garden City Publishing Company, Garden City, New York. (Google Books Full View) link