With that being said, the principles of
self-reliance and risk that Einstein's parents
implemented in his life are ones that we can perhaps
model on a smaller scale. Einstein certainly modeled
this behavior with his own son on a smaller scale.
In his late twenties, Einstein moved to Zurich with
his first wife, Mileva, and their son. Friedrich
Adler was living near Einstein and they became great
friends. They would often get together to share
ideas. Often times their sons would get rowdy and it
would be hard for them to talk. Many parents would
barge in and tell their sons to be quiet, that they
are having a meeting. Not Adler and Einstein, these
great thinkers would climb into the attic to carry
on their conversation. They allowed their boys to
grow and explore even if it was noisy.
His freedom as a child and the freedom he gave his
son was, in part, due to his attitude on failure. He
was not afraid to fail. After all, he tackled some
of the most perplexing questions of our universe.
Many would have shied away from tackling these
questions simply because the rate of failure seemed
extraordinarily high. However, it is evident that
Einstein was not afraid to be wrong or to fail.
When Einstein was fifty years old, reporters were
hounding Einstein for an interview during which he
was working on a unified field theory. Putting the
"unified field theory" into layman’s
terms, this meant he was working on a theory that
would put the entire universe into a mathematical
equation, and he had the attention of the world.
Reporters parked outside his home in hopes of an
interview. Many kept all night vigils waiting for
the story. As a rule, Einstein did not chase the
spotlight and dodged the requests often. It was the
same in this instance as well.
did, however, allow an interview with one reporter
from the New York Times. You see, the New York Times
was edited by Carr Van Anda, and Van Anda had found
an error in a previous Einstein's equation. Imagine
that! The editor of the New York Times finding an
error in the math of Einstein! Don’t you think
that Einstein must have been irate that the editor
would point this out? He must have been insulted.
Actually, on the contrary, Einstein was impressed
and that is the reason he allowed an interview to
this reporter from the New York Times. You see
Einstein was not afraid to be wrong, and when
corrected he was not insulted.
At Princeton, Albert Einstein was more like a kindly
uncle. When he arrived in 1935, and was asked what
he would require for his study, he replied, "A
desk, some pads and a pencil, and a large
wastebasket - to hold all of my mistakes."
Albert Einstein spent his last two decades trying to
reconcile quantum physics with relativity. His holy
grail -- a so-called "Unified Field
Theory" -- eluded him. He once casually
mentioned to a colleague that he was on the verge of
his "greatest discovery ever," before
admitting that "it didn't pan out" just
two weeks later.
One day in his twilight years, he received a letter
from a 15-year-old girl asking for help with a
homework assignment. She soon received a curious
reply: a page full of unintelligible diagrams, along
with an attempt at consolation: "Do not worry
about your difficulties in mathematics,"
Einstein told her, "I can assure you that mine
are much greater!"
The man who was the greatest success at mathematics
also failed a lot at them. But that didn't stop him
from moving forward.
Not only was he willing to risk at math, he also
risked when he gambled. While attending a physics
symposium in Las Vegas one year, Albert Einstein, to
the astonishment of many of his sober-minded
colleagues, spent a fair amount of time at the craps
and roulette tables.
"Einstein is gambling as if there were no
tomorrow," an eminent physicist remarked one
day. "What troubles me," another replied,
"is that he may know something!"
Too often in life, we attempt to spend all our
energy demonstrating how we are right instead of
accepting constructive criticism and getting better.
This is not true of Einstein. Not only was he not
afraid of being wrong, he was not afraid of being
corrected. Inquire of yourself, ask yourself
honestly: How do you respond when you are
corrected? Do you lash out or are you
If you want to develop the mind of Einstein, you
must not be afraid to fail and allow yourself the
opportunity to fail. Herman Melville put it
this way: "He who has never failed
somewhere, that man can not be great."
Thomas Edison when he was constructing the light
bulb built 1,000 prototypes that did not work before
he successfully built the one that we still use
today and will forever. A reporter asked
Edison how it felt to fail 1,000 times. Edison
replied, "You misunderstand. I did not fail
1,000 times. I successfully found 1,000 ways
that the light bulb would not work."
Edison, like Einstein, did not view failure the way
so many do. They viewed it as acceptable and a
way to learn and grow.
The fear of failure could have paralyzed Einstein
and Edison, yet it did not. What about
you? Are you so paralyzed with fear that you
have settled for mediocrity? Don't allow that
to happen. Embrace risk and failure.
Learn that it is okay to be wrong, and run headlong
into the rewards of risk as Einstein did.
you want to catch beasts you don't see everyday,
You have to go places quite out-of-the-way.
You have to go places no others can get to.
You have to get cold, and you have to get wet, too.
* * *
with permission from the Ron White Ezine.