What his greatest gift had to do with failure
It was the summer of 1934 and a failed business owner named Charles walked into a retail store in New York with his newest invention, a valve he designed for their rubber life preservers.
The merchant just laughed because the rubber market had collapsed. The earliest versions of rubber were not heat resistant and melted in the summer heat.
Most of these early rubber companies would go out of business within 5 years. And the public saw the once wondrous rubber as a pariah.
Disappointed, Charles decided to be the one to solve the mystery of rubber.
Charles went home to Philadelphia to begin experimenting. He discovered that adding powder to the natural rubber made them less sticky. Excited, Charles made hundreds of pairs of shoes only to watch them melt in the warm weather.
The neighbors started to complain of the smell, so he moved his “lab” to a bedroom on the 4th floor of a tenement building in New York City.
By now, he was adding several chemicals in a new process to manufacture his improved product. And it was the best rubber ever made, but it still did not stand up to the heat.
Bankrupt but not broken, Charles and his family lived in an abandon factory on Staten Island and ate fish that he caught in the river.
Five years after his initial experiments, he discovered that he could treat the exterior with sulfur to improve it once again. He took samples of his newest rubber to a merchant where he lived in Woburn, Massachusetts. And everyone in the store laughed at him.
In a fit of anger, Charles slung the piece of rubber across the room and into the potbellied stove. When he went to retrieve it, he found a new substance that was elastic, weatherproof and heat resistant.
Charles could have given up at any time and everyone would have understood.
Instead he said, “Life should not be estimated exclusively by the standard of dollars and cents. I am not disposed to complain that I have planted and others have gathered the fruits. A man has cause for regret only when he sows and no one reaps.”
Although, Charles never profited from his invention, his family eventually did. And his legacy lives on in the world’s largest rubber company that was named after him, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
Despite all of his troubles, Charles greatest gift was persistence. And not being afraid to fail on the way to your greatest success.
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