Mistakes happen. And while some are costly and embarrassing, they inevitably lead us to a better place. In fact, the connection between making mistakes and creating a breakthrough is so apparent, that many businesses are deliberately investing in creating cultural environments that celebrate failure. Not to mention, that successful entrepreneurs share their stories of failure and triumph in equal measure - and with just as much pride. Sometimes, it helps to laugh at your mistakes. Because the more we laugh at our mistakes, the less they own us in the present and have any impact on our future. And if you can't laugh at your own mistakes yet, perhaps you can laugh at some of these.

1. The Leaning Tower of Pisa

It took 177 years to build, but only 10 to start tilting. This is not wholly unsurprising, as the name 'Pisa' comes from the Greek word, meaning 'marshy land'. This architects' nightmare held its own for just under a decade, before gravity took its toll.

Lesson: check your foundations

2. The Titanic

This ship proudly deemed itself 'unsinkable' and shouted this from the rooftops. Not only did it sink, they chose to skimp on lifeboats. Though this example is far from laughable, it does teach a valuable lesson around optimism and realism.

The Lesson: Always entertain worst-case scenario

3. Decca Records

Decca decided to back a local group, instead of the band from Liverpool and turned down the Beatles after their 1962 audition. Head of A&R, Dick Rower delivered the rejection and went on the record saying that 'Guitar music was on the way out'. However, they did sign The Rolling Stones, on George Harrison's recommendation.

The Lesson: Talent defies trends - it doesn't follow them

4. Fox Studios

They gave George Lucas all the rights to Star Wars merchandize for just $20,000 in 1977. Merchandizing wasn't big business then, so it was cast away for next to nothing, to Lucas's astonishment and good fortune.

The Lesson: Plan for the future, not the present


This organization may represent the pinnacle of human achievement but they are not immune to a big flop. They lost a Mars Orbiter because half of the measurements were metric, and the other half were English.

The Lesson: never make assumptions between teammates

6. The Austrian Army c. 1770

Due to unclear communications and rushed planning, the Austrian Army, quite unbelievably and completely accidentally, attacked itself with all its miltary might in 1778.

The Lesson: communicate, communicate, communicate!

7. Kodak

Kodak became the quintessential story of a brand in decline in the early 2000s. Shockingly, they sat on digital technology since 1975 but failed to do anything with it as they didn't want to jeopardize their film sales.

The Lesson: Let opportunity drive you, not fear

8. Blockbuster

The focal point of the 'night in' all through the 90s, this business died a slow, twisted death. Perhaps the worst part is that Blockbuster had the option to buy Netflix, on multiple occasions, for a song. However, a combination of pride and ignorance saw them reject the offer.

The Lesson: put your pride aside when making business decisions

Published on: Aug 24, 2017
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