“Success is 99% Failure.” This was one of his mottos. Find out who said this and how poor performance in school turned him into one of the biggest success stories in the world.

4 Jun

The year was 1906. The day was November 17th. The place was Hamamatsu, Japan. On that day, a baby was born that would have a major impact on the vast majority of people in the United States, Japan, and countless countries around the world.
That was the day Soichiro Honda was born. Yes, the baby born on that day would start and build the Honda Motor Company into the giant it is today.
But, it was not always smooth sailing. In fact, little Soichiro Honda got off to a pretty rough start, especially in school…
Soichiro’s father was a blacksmith and ran a bicycle repair business on the side. He would buy broken down bicycles for a cheap price, fix them, and sell them for a small profit. It is reported that Soichiro was helping his father, “straight from the cradle.” Though Soichiro was intelligent, he wanted nothing to do with formal education… and his grades reflected it.
At his school, all students were given grade reports that their parents were to stamp with their family seal. Because he did not want his parents to see his grades, Soichiro re-created their family seal stamp out of an old tire. He stamped his report card and brought it back to school.
It worked, but Soichiro did not stop there. He started helping out his friends and making family seal stamps for them as well. That is, until Soichiro make a critical error. His family name was symmetrical so it did not need to be made in reverse on the stamp. But, his friends’ family names were not symmetrical. Soichiro did not recognize and his friend’s new seals stamped backwards! The teacher noticed the mistake and Soichiro found himself in very hot water.
Soichiro’s father was very upset. He was so upset that he made Soichiro kneel in the corner for an entire day. But this story has a little twist…
You see, Soichiro’s father was not upset because Soichiro forged the family stamps. He was upset because he did not pick up on the mirror imaging and made the stamps incorrectly. That’s why he punished him.
This lesson and others like it stuck with Soichiro, and they served him well when he met with failure after failure a little later in life when he had a dream to create a piston ring engine. He devoted his entire life to accomplishing this goal. He invested all of his money (he even brought his wife’s jewelry to the pawn shop) and sunk it into his dream.
He went back to school only to drop out because he refused to take the examinations. He founded his own company (Tokai Seiki) and was doing business with Toyota until World War II put a stop to it. Once again, he did not quit. In 1946, he started “Honda Technology Research Institute” and started making mopeds. Within two years, Honda Technology Research Institute became Honda Motor Company.
In the 1960s, Soichiro fulfilled a dream and started producing cars. I think we all know where this story ends. Clearly, the take home message is that success is rarely, if ever, a straight line. There are always twists and turns. Disappointment and adaptation. More failure than success. But thank goodness you can fail 99% of the time and still be successful in the end. You just have to be willing to fail.

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