It was the 1870's. Somewhere in a workshop in New Jersey, Thomas Alva Edison was burning the midnight oil, trying to create a light bulb.
He tried several experiments - all without success. He just couldn't get it right. His failures became the talk of the town and the story goes that after he had failed for the 500th time, a journalist interviewed him and asked him, "Mr. Edison, how does it feel to have failed 500 times? Why don't you just give up?"
"No, no, young lady," replied Edison. "I haven't failed 500 times. I have just discovered 500 ways it won't work. I am so much closer now to finding a way that will work!"
And sure enough, in 1879, Edison invented the filament light bulb, an invention that changed the world. By the time he died, the 'man-who-failed-500-times' had 1024 patents to his credit, and had founded the iconic General Electric company. But Edison's real contribution to mankind went beyond all this. He showed us the power of perseverance, the virtue of learning from your failures, and the magic of never giving up.
Look at little babies learning to walk. They try and take a few steps, they stumble and fall. Then they stand up and try again. And bang, they fall again. They don't feel embarrassed. They just get up and try again, until, bingo, they can walk! Think about it. If little children were like us grown-ups and gave up after a few failed attempts, we would all have never learnt to walk!
And yet as adults, we forget that lesson. We are scared to take the first steps, because we are scared we might fail. And the first time we taste failure, we give up. A group of school children once asked Sir Winston Churchill what he thought was the secret of success. Churchill's response? Just seven words. "Never give up. Never, never give up!"