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Post-It Notes

By: Michael Blankenship |

“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

In life, things often don’t go as planned. But the good news is, sometimes the results can be even better than you had planned

Consider Post-It Notes. 

In 1968, Dr. Spencer Silver, a chemist at 3M, was on a mission to create a super-strong adhesive. But instead he ended up creating an adhesive that was weak, pressure-sensitive, and could easily be peeled away without leaving any residue. 

On paper, this sounded like a failed experiment – after all, who needs a weak glue?

For years, this peculiar adhesive sat unused. 

That was until a colleague of Silver, Art Fry, faced a challenge. Art sang in his church’s choir and was frustrated by his bookmarks that kept falling out of his hymnal. 

It struck him: what if he could use Silver’s weak adhesive to stick bookmarks to his pages without damaging them?

And that’s how the idea for Post-it Note was born! 

Today, those little yellow sticky notes are a ubiquitous tool in offices, classrooms, and homes around the world. 

The story of the Post-it Note reminds us that the journey to success is rarely a straight line. What may initially appear as a setback or failure might just be taking us on a detour, leading to a result far more meaningful than we had imagined. 

To reach those results, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Reframe the narrative: Instead of labeling an outcome as a “failure,” see it as “data” or “feedback.” This shift in perspective can reduce negative emotions and open your mind to potential solutions.
  • Consult others: Silver’s weak adhesive might’ve remained an overlooked failure had Art Fry not seen its potential. Sometimes, an outside perspective can provide fresh insights.
  • Analyze and adapt: Dive deeper into why something didn’t work out. Is there a pattern to your setbacks? If yes, what can you change in your approach?

Next time, whenever you encounter what seems like a failure or a roadblock, instead of getting disheartened, think — “This is not the final step. How can I use it to grow, learn and innovate?”

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