Stumbling Onto Success

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“If you stumble, make it part of the dance.”(Author Unknown)

When I came across this quotation on my Pinterest travels, I immediately pinned it and within minutes, others were repining and liking it. I also shared this message with my friends, many of whom tend to fixate on each snafu in their lives, often ignoring the bigger picture.

I recall one friend who spent almost an hour listing everything that had gone wrong at a recent event she had chaired. When I read the glowing write-up in the paper, I couldn’t believe it was the same event. No mention was made of the last-minute menu changes or frantic scramble to replace the emcee who had come down with the flu. Without realizing it, my friend just kept stumbling on and everything turned out for the best.

Much like what happened with many well-known inventions that were accidents stumbled upon by sloppy, distracted, and temperamental professionals.

Fried to a Crisp

As head chef at Carey Moon Lake House in Saratoga Springs (1853), George Crum catered to a wealthy clientele. One day, a customer complained about his potatoes and sent them back to the kitchen several times, suggesting they be cut thinner and fried longer. Crum lost his temper and decided to get back at the customer. He cut the potatoes extra thin, fried them until they were crisps, and salted them. To everyone’s surprise, the customer asked for a second helping. The news spread quickly about these Saratoga chips which later become known as potato chips.

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All Covered in Goo

In 1879, chemist Constantin Fahlberg was experimenting with new uses for coal tar. He became so engrossed in his research that he forgot about his supper. Hungry and tired, he rushed out of the lab, forgetting to wash his hands. While eating, he noticed that his bread tasted unusually sweet. When he wiped his mustache with a napkin, he found the napkin tasted sweet as well. Curious, he stuck his thumb in his mouth and tasted more of the sweetness. He returned to the laboratory where he tasted every beaker and dish until he found the one that contained saccharin.

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Unwashed Dishes

In his haste to leave for a long overdue vacation, Alexander Fleming did not bother washing any of the dirty petri dishes stacked up at his workstation. When he returned from his holiday, he discovered that most had been contaminated. While dumping the dishes in a large vat of Lysol, one dish caught his eye. The dish was practically all covered in colonies of bacteria, except for one area where a blob of mold was growing. After close examination, he saw that the mold had blocked the bacteria from growing. He concluded that this mold—later called penicillin—could be used to kill a wide range of bacteria.

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