22 Failed Predictions and What To Learn From Them

Below is a list of predictions made by the so called “experts” who at the time thought they were right. Oh boy were they wrong.

Hindsight is 20/20 I know but these people thought things were impossible. Even the experts are wrong too. People who’s opinion you value can be wrong too. They may think you’re flat out crazy with your idea.

What’s the lesson from this? Don’t believe things are impossible. Remember can’t is the cancer of happen. When it’s something you’re passionate about, listen to your gut and just go with it.

Thank goodness in these 22 examples no one listened to them.

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.” Anonymous Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found FedEx).

“Everything that can be invented has already been invented.” Director of the U.S Patent Office, 1899.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”IBM Chairman 1943

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

“To throw bombs from an airplane will do as much damage as throwing bags of flour. It will be my pleasure to stand on the bridge of any ship while it is attacked by airplanes.”Newton Barker, US minister of defense (1921).

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.”Associates of Edwin L. Drake refusing his suggestion to drill for oil in 1859.

“Taking the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and converting him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things I ever heard.”Tris Speaker, baseball hall of famer, talking about Babe Ruth, 1919.

“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.”New York Times, 1936.

“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” Dr Dionysys Larder (1793-1859)

“With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.”Business Week, August 2, 1968.

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society, 1895.

“There will never be a bigger plane built.” – A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), maker of big business mainframe computers, arguing against the PC in 1977.

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?” – ?Associates of David Sarnoff responding to the latter’s call for investment in the radio in 1921.

“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.

“I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.”HG Wells, British novelist, in 1901.

“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” — Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.”The president of the MIchigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Ken Olson, founder, chairman & president of DEC, 1977.

“We will never make a 32 bit operating system” — Bill Gates

“A rocket will never be able to leave the earth’s atmosphere.” The New York Times, 1936.

Ours has been the first [expedition], and doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality.” Lt. Joseph Ives, after visiting the Grand Canyon in 1861.

Photo by relgar

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22 responses to 22 Failed Predictions and What To Learn From Them

  1. Benny, This is great material! I love how all the things that people thought were impossible are now the usual.

    It really inspires me to think outside of the box of conventional wisdom.

  2. This is awesome, and such a neat way to present it. Nothing makes me want to try something more than someone telling me it can’t be done. 😀

  3. “We will never make a 32 bit operating system” — Bill Gates <- Laughed at this!:D

    I think I saw this on askaaronlee 'the word “impossible” doesn’t exist and the word “impossible” simply means “Im Possible”'

    We are capable of doing wonderful things. Believing is Seeing.

    • Yes even the richest man in the US can be wrong. Impossible just means I’m possible. I like that Marco. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Really enjoyed this one Benny!

  5. Benny,

    Reading all this remind me of one particular incident. You probably are familiar with the “I Love You” virus that swept major banks in Germany and other big countries.

    The program was a result of a research done by an college IT student in the Philippines. He had presented the work for his Thesis requirement for graduation. The idea was rejected by the professor panel of the university and the work was cited as “unethical”.

    The main purpose of the study was to show vulnerability of computer networks and the world wide web.

    So, that’s where it started.

    This story is not a good one, though. The only positive thing about this incident was that – according to rumors – the FBI took the programmer and hire him for a job after he went through corrective actions (I’d suppose)

  6. Damn where did you find all these?!?

    Great quotes though. Goes to show how stupid it is to be firmly cemented in any kind of viewpoint or belief, things can change so quickly…

    • Absolutely. Yet we still limit our imagination to do the ordinary. We are more capable than that. Thanks for your comment David aka the Web Inspector!

  7. Benny,

    This post reminds me of a list I saw today of famous people who were famous “failures” before they became legends–Beethoven, Isaac Asimov, etc. If we listen to those “I can’t” voices we are thwarting our own potential, our own individual genius.

    I’m so glad you reminded me again that thoughts and opinions don’t control the future. Mindfulness is about harnessing the power of now!


    • You’re welcome Annie! I do have in mind doing a post in the future about famous people who were rejected but never gave up on their dreams. Thanks for coming by! I’ve seen you around the blogosphere. 🙂

  8. Benny!! I absolutely love this post! It is very unique and boy where would be if we actually listened to these people!

    • No kidding Monique! These ideas may have sounded so crazy at the time but now we’re so thankful for them. Hope you’re doing well!!

  9. Don’t you love it when people are wrong. Especially if they are telling you that you’re an idiot and you can’t do what you want to do!

    My father was a cancer survivor for 42 years. He had a very rare form of cancer and only 5 people in the entire US had it. They told him he wouldn’t live past 5 years. He was the only known survivor of this form of cancer. When he passed away, it wasn’t from that. Never say never!

    Love this reminder Benny!! 🙂


    • Wow that is amazing. Your dad was a true fighter! He defied all odds. Thanks for sharing Adrienne.

  10. “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” — Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.
    … haha THIS IS HILARIOUS!!

    You proved a great point here Benny! We can do whatever the hell we want and whatever we put our minds too no matter what the naysayers say dammit! 😀

    • Hahahaha..they made a Big Mac Stake right? Yeah the British aren’t smarter than us like they think. 🙂

  11. Very interesting post. It proves that we shouldn’t always follow what big brothers said. Just listen and follow what you think it’s right 🙂

    • Hi Tho, that’s right. We shouldn’t always listen to what people say. Especially when you have a big idea or goal. Most of the people will think you’re crazy. Thanks for commenting!