There was once a young graduate who, on a whim, applied for a job as Director of Investments at IBM. He had no experience, and barely enough qualification, but the panel were so impressed by his boldness that they gave him the job.

On his first day, the enthusiastic new executive negotiated and approved a huge investment deal, which lost IBM ten million dollars overnight.

The following day, the mortified young man was scared to go to work. He knew for a fact that he would be fired. With a heavy heart, he walked straight into the CEO’s office and said,

Sir, I’m sorry about yesterday. I’ve cost the company ten million dollars, and so it’s only fair that you fire me”.

The CEO called in the other board members and asked the young man to repeat what he had just said. Filled with even more trepidation, the man repeated his message.

“I’m very sorry about yesterday, and I know you must fire me, but I understand”.

The board members all burst out laughing. The young graduate was more confused than he’d ever been, but he was afraid to ask what the joke was.

Eventually, the CEO caught his breath and wiped away his tears of mirth long enough to look the young man dead in the eye and say,

“My dear fellow, why would we fire you? Your training just cost us ten million dollars!”

My friends, almost all of us have dreams and aspirations. Many of us will never even attempt to achieve them, but a few of you are bold, like this young graduate, and will boldly venture towards achieving it, just like he did when he walked into that interview. Sadly, out of those who will venture, about ninety per cent will give up the minute the very first thing goes wrong. And I suppose it’s easy to understand why.

Our dreams are huge to us. They are the pinnacle of our potential, and so if anything about it gets messed up, it seems like a huge loss to us – a great cost to the precious value we place on our dreams. Mistakes to many of us are irredeemable costs when you are pursuing something as valuable as our dreams. This is why most of us give up when things go wrong. We evaluate our mistake and come to the realisation that we can’t afford to make another one.

But you see, we need to understand one important thing: mistakes are instructions.

When Thomas Edison was trying to invent the light bulb, he and his assistants conducted thousands of experiments, testing different components, using different materials, making costly mistakes. Every experiment that didn’t work brought them back to square one. At a point, one of his helpers got frustrated and asked Thomas why they don’t just give up and go home. Edison’s response to his assistant was simple. He said,

“Every time we get it wrong, we learn one more way it won’t work. So we’re closer to a solution”.

I guess the message is clear. An important part of learning how to achieve your goals is learning how NOT to do it. Mistakes are instructions, not roadblocks. Let them teach you, and not defeat you.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and it doesn’t matter how many times you fail, you only need to succeed once.